“This is a movement that has sprung up online, so it’s not so much that these activists are moving online, it’s moving the target from schools to teachers and librarians,” Friedman says. “And that’s not all.”
Vera has personally experienced the impact of this. In the week since the Pride Book event, she says, she’s been bombarded with threatening Facebook messages and phone calls. In an effort to protect herself, she now wears Mace and has home security cameras installed.
Other conservative groups also monitor teachers’ social media accounts. Moms for Liberty and its offshoot group, Moms for Libraries, have engaged in this kind of monitoring and have also started distributing “liberty-minded books” with conservative publishing house Brave Books, who claim to “empower the youth of this generation with conservative values” while “glorifying the Lord in everything we do.”
The Leadership Institute is another conservative group that has justified this tactic. “Anyone who wades into the public debate through social media is presenting their personal or political views in front of everyone,” Matthew Hurtt, the director of graduate relations at the Leadership Institute, told me in an email. “If teachers, administrators, and elected officials are espousing offensive views on social media, chances are they will embrace those views in the classroom or in school board meetings.”
A clear pattern emerges: educators who provide sex education and discuss LGBTQ issues are referred to as “groomers.”
Gloria Gonzales Dholakia, a school board member in Leander, Texas, says she was called a groomer during a school board meeting broadcast online, sparking a slew of snide comments. A man attending the meeting made several very personal comments, including suggesting that Gonzales Dholakia’s husband, who was only a few feet away in the room, must be rude. “My kids watched this online at home. I was so angry and ready to quit,” she says.