Despite seeing much lower turnout, local elections impact citizens far more than presidential contests. To that end, I implore people to pay close attention to the folks we're electing to local office in the hopes that Franklin chooses to bypass extremism and fringe candidates who represent potential harm to this community.
On Oct. 15, School Committee candidate Dashe Videira held a "Diversity, Equity, Inclusion CRT" (taken directly from her website) event that included guest speaker Rev. Steven L. Craft. Following 30 seconds of searching on Google, I found a video Rev. Craft posted on his own YouTube channel featuring him as a guest on a New Jersey television show speaking about whether or not a transgender teacher should be allowed in the classroom. He says "homosexuality in all of its forms, along with other sexual deviations, are wrong." He also goes on to say "There is child abuse here when children are being brainwashed and being taught these deviant lifestyles and making them appear normal."
It is nothing short of horrific that a School Committee candidate aligns herself with a speaker who feels gay people are "wrong" and that it's "child abuse" for students to be taught be a transgender teacher. When I followed up with Dashe directly, she confirmed that she would not allow her children (none of whom attend Franklin Public Schools) to be instructed by a transgender teacher specifically because they are trans. She cited her faith as the determining factor in this decision.
Then, a week later, I read the opening statements of the School Committee candidates who couldn't be present at a candidates night. Four of them introduced themselves, stated why they wanted to run for office, and identified important issues and potential solutions. Dashe Videira's statement, however, was singularly focused on Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and why this classic should not be read by Franklin High School students. Because apparently the issue she felt to be of the highest priority is potentially banning a book by an African-American, Nobel Prize winning author.
Please do not vote for anyone who holds these archaic and damaging views regarding transgender people and whose priority is banning books instead of expanding the world view of our kids. There are gay students in Franklin. There are trans students in Franklin. There is even a trans School Committee candidate. I can't imagine how terrible it must feel for these folks to hear that a School Committee candidate thinks they are potentially harmful just because of who they are or how they identify. Or to know someone could soon hold office who would actively limit exposure to books that share the lived experiences of marginalized authors.
Unfortunately she is not the only one in this boat. Town Councilor Andrew Bissanti is up for reelection and was captured in a Milford Daily News photograph holding a sign this summer at a rally in Medway that read "Screw your critical race theory: Stop teaching racism and woke liberal politics in our schools."
First of all, Critical Race Theory (CRT) is something graduate students learn but it is not taught in our schools and there is no plan to do so. Which means Bissanti is opposed to something that isn't even happening in our schools. But more importantly, a sitting Town Councilor holding a sign that says "Screw CRT" and demeaning good faith efforts to examine how race and racism influence our laws, policies, and practices by terming them "woke liberal politics" is a monumental red flag. As is insinuating our hard-working teachers are in any way teaching racism in school. He told the paper "Parents don't want their children viewing the world through the lens of racism." But Bissanti certainly doesn't speak for all Franklin parents and I wonder if he thought about our non-white families who have no choice but to see racism on a daily basis when he made that statement.
This is not about condemning religious beliefs and this transcends left vs right or liberal vs conservative. People are free to worship however they choose and hold whatever views they want, but there's a different standard when that person's religious views and beliefs are going to be injected into policy that affects every child who attends public school in Franklin. And bigotry cloaked in religion is still bigotry.
Please don't vote for extremism and intolerance on Nov. 2 or for people who openly admit they won't separate church and state. Franklin deserves better than that because our community IS better than that. Thankfully we have a robust slate of diverse and qualified candidates, and I hope voters choose people who don't condone prejudice or align themselves with extremism.