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What to Do When Your Public School Faces Extremist Challenges
The Freedom to Learn Network (FLN) is a unique all-volunteer, grassroots organization based in Pennsylvania dedicated to promoting and maintaining quality public education.  Our mission statement declares that "...all children have the basic right to educational freedom....We seek to improve the quality of public education through accurate information, parental involvement, and community awareness."
    Based on our seven years of experience in dealing with extremist takeovers of school boards and in helping individuals and communities locally, statewide, and nationally to stand up for public schools, we have developed some field-tested tools that we would like to share with you:
    Declaration of Principles
    Advocacy Register for Quality Public Education
    Building a Grassroots Coalition
    Buzz Words for Recognizing Extremist Rhetoric
    Questions to Ask School Board Candidates

    We are available to help you if your school district is in trouble; we publish a newsletter and provide workshops, speakers, and informational materials.  Contact us at:
    The Freedom to Learn Network
    2020 Downyflake Lane, Suite 301A
    Allentown, PA 18103
    Tel./FAX:  610 797 7333
    E Mail:


Declaration of Principles
People of all backgrounds have an honored place in America and no one group has the right to impose its religious beliefs on others. Public schools---where our children learn the core values of American democracy---are designed to prepare all students to be productive, responsible citizens, knowledgeable and protective of their Constitutional rights. Key among these rights is freedom of conscience and religious belief.

I    We believe in separation of church and state, and in its obvious corollary, separation of church and public school. Public officials should not seek to promote one set of religious beliefs over others.
II    We believe religious doctrine should not determine state law or public school policy or curricula, but can---and should---be appropriately taught at home, at church, and in other private religious settings.
III    We believe it is the responsibility of parents and family---not government or private schools---to inculcate children with the religious traditions and beliefs to which they adhere.
IV    We believe schools should teach about our Constitutional right to freedom of religion, instilling in students respectful tolerance for the religious beliefs of others.
V    We believe tests of religious preference are not appropriate criteria for judging candidates for public office, including School Board.
VI    We believe candidates for public office should be judged by criteria directly relevant to the office for which they are running.
VII    We believe candidates for School Board should be deeply committed to supporting, sustaining, and improving our public schools.
VIII    We believe candidates for public office should clearly explain their main goals and positions on all issues of relevance to the office they are seeking.
IX    We believe candidates for public office who are sponsored by or affiliated with organizations that have a specific political agenda should disclose any and all of those organizational connections.
X    We believe public schools should be a meeting ground, not a battleground; they should be a place where children from all religious and philosophical backgrounds feel welcomed, accepted, and free to learn.

The FREEDOM TO LEARN NETWORK has accepted these principles with the cooperation of and authorization from the Community Coalition Network of Solana Beach, California.
    For more information on FLN, please send us a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your request to :
    The Freedom to Learn Network
    2020 Downyflake Lane, Suite 301A
    Allentown, PA  18103

Advocacy Register For Quality Public Education

I am willing to support quality public education and I can do the following (check all that apply):

____ Attend and show support at a public meeting

____ Bring another interested person to the next school board meeting

____ Speak on behalf of issues (2-3 minutes) at a public meeting

____ Write a letter to the editor

____ Write a letter to school members

____ Write a letter to elected officials, call them, or see them personally

____ Call a radio station to support/oppose public education issues

____ Be on the phone chain

____ Call Republican/Democrat committeeperson to get their support for candidate

____ Run for School Board

____ Know someone willing to run for a School Board seat


____ Help with voter registration

____ Volunteer at the polls

____ Work at a phone bank supporting candidates

____ Have a "get-to-know the candidate" tea/coffee at my house

Name ____________________ Phone ___________________


Work phone ______________ FAX _______________



(put a contact name/address for your group here)

reprinted with permission from Freedom to Learn Network
2020 Downyflake Lane - Suite 301A - Allentown, PA 18103 - Tel/fax 610-797-7333 - Email


The Real Story of Building a Grassroots Coalition

  1. The beginning: personal interest or involvement in a problem or situation; different levels
  2. Obtaining and digesting information: the "sponge phase"!
  3. Reaching conclusions and sharing results with others
  4. Forming a group: nuts and bolts---deciding on a name; mission and goals; structure; bylaws; decisions regarding type of organization (e.g., 501c(3) or 501c(4)?); raising money (memberships, donations, grants, pleading and cajoling, etc.); office or not to office (get business cards made up, also stationery, banner)
  5. Collecting and disseminatlng information, and forming action plans: networking, public speaking, e-maillng, just plain chatting, recruiting interested parties, reaching out (e.g., hold a conference, run workshops, stage public meetings)
  6. Some pointers:
    a. Know your oppositlon---go to their meetings, get on their maillng list, collect their publications, and share this information with others
    b. Try to keep your members and contacts involved in some way ( e.g., "Read Across America," school board election result forms)
    c. Maintain a good working relationship with the press (e.g., Phlladelphia Inquirer sent a reporter to cover our conference); meet with editorial board of local newspaper
    d. Call in to those radio talk shows to get your point of view heard
    e. Send "thank you's" for contributions, etc.
    f. Expect criticism: the good, the bad, and the UGLY!---but it's essential to have a sense of humor ("Top Ten Reasons....") and to maintain your balance (not to mentIon your sanity)
    g. Determine the best ways to assess the effectiveness of what you're doing
    h. Find Inspiration and motivation wherever you can

reprinted with permission from Freedom to Learn Network
2020 Downyflake Lane - Suite 301A - Allentown, PA 18103 - Tel/fax 610-797-7333 - Email


Buzzwords of Anti-Education Campaigns
Secular humanism
Satanism, witchcraft, the occult, paganism
Eastern religions, New Age, hypnosis
Anti-Christian, anti-religious, secular humanism
Anti-parent, anti-family ("Parental Rights")
Globalism, New World Order, one-world government
Psychotherapy, psychological testing, invasion of privacy ("Ritalin" abuse)
Values, Outcomes-Based Education (OBE), homosexuality
Creationism, creation science
Explicit language, pornography
Voluntary prayer, student-led prayer
ALSO: "dumbing down," "back to basics," "opt-in" versus "opt- out," "books not bricks," "downsizing administration," "abstinence-only," "traditional family values," anti-School to work programs, anti-State Standards for education


Questions to Ask School Board Candidates

In an effort to have the voting public be as informed as possible about the agendas and positions of school board candidates, the Freedom to Learn Network recommends the use of these and similar relevant questions in public settings. These questions will open up community dialogue on today's important educational issues. It is critical that all candidates answer each question completely. A "yes" or "no" does not provide enough information about a candidate's position.

    1. What is your position relevant to the use of public tax funds currently supporting public schools for the payment of tuition at private and parochial schools (a "voucher" system)?
    2. Do you favor prayer in public schools? Discuss how you would implement prayer if you do favor it.
    3. What is your position relative to teaching creationism as an alternative to the theory of evolution that is taught to students in the public schools? If you favor this, how and where would this be taught?
    4. What is your position on the teaching of sex education for the prevention of AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy? Do you support teaching only abstinence-based sex education, or should schools provide a comprehensive sexuality education program?
    5. Do you believe that books such as Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Shakespeare's Macbeth should be removed from open shelves of the public school libraries?
    6. Do you believe that self-esteem programs such as "Pumsy," "DUSO," and "Quest" are of benefit to the health and education of our students? Explain your answer.
    7. Do you believe drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs such as "DARE" should be taught in the public school system? If not, please explain your answer.
    8. How do you balance the need to use tax dollars wisely versus the education of our children?
    9. Do you believe that religious doctrine should determine state law or public school policy or curriculum, instead of being taught at home, at church, or in other private or religious settings? If you do believe this, please explain your answer.
    10. Should social studies curriculum include teaching about peoples of diverse cultures and beliefs?
    11. Do you support the use of performance assessments as part of a comprehensive testing program to measure student learning?
    12. Should a comprehensive math curriculum include teaching problem-solving concepts as well as math facts?
    13. Do you prefer using only phonics to teach reading, or should reading instruction include both whole language and phonics?
    14. Do you support proposals prohibiting schools from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability?
    15. Do you support legislative proposals defining basic education in a way that would deny state funding for art, music, and sports programs?
    16. Please state (or provide a list of) all organizations with which you are affiliated or that you support, those that sponsor or endorse you, and those from which you have requested endorsements.
    17. Do you believe there should be guidance counselors in the schools? If not, explain your answer.

reprinted with permission from Freedom to Learn Network
2020 Downyflake Lane - Suite 301A - Allentown, PA 18103 - Tel/fax 610-797-7333 - Email