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‘Parental rights’ group apologizes after using San Jose councilmember’s face on flyer

‘Parental rights’ group apologizes after using San Jose councilmember’s face on flyer

A “parental rights” group whose critics say promotes anti-LGBTQ messaging apologized late Thursday night to San Jose councilmember Bien Doan for erroneously using the elected official’s photo on a flyer for an upcoming event hosted by the organization.

“Our schools have fallen prey to a dangerous agenda pushed by politically driven educators seeking to indoctrinate our children at the expense of your family’s values and beliefs!” the flyer from Informed Parents of Silicon Valley reads. It also includes three books from LGBTQ authors, warning parents, “Did you know these books are available to children as young as five?”

In a statement issued early Friday morning, Doan says he never gave permission to the organization to use his photo and was never informed of the agenda of the meeting, which was to take place at Seven Trees Community Center at 5:30 p.m. A date was not attached to the flyer.

“A flyer has been circulating the web incorrectly linking me as a speaker at an Informed Parents of Silicon Valley meeting,” Doan wrote. “As soon as I learned of this, I sent a cease-and-desist letter to their organization and informed them I would not be attending.” Doan also said that the incident serves as a “wakeup call” for his office to better research the backgrounds of organizations he meets with.

In an apology letter from the group provided by Doan, the organization confirmed that “at no time did the planners of the event or personnel from Informed Parents (of Silicon Valley) discuss LGBTQ+ issues with you in any setting.”

“It has come to our attention that we placed you in an untenable position that will potentially reflect badly on you,” the letter reads.

According to Informed Parents of Silicon Valley’s website, the group describes itself as “a powerful voice for parental rights in the choice of school curriculum taught to our children and grandchildren” and claims “children are the victims of a widespread campaign to fundamentally change our society and reset the moral values that have guided our country since its founding.” The group links to articles condemning “critical race theory” and “comprehensive sexuality education”.

San Jose City leaders must embrace and celebrate our community diversity. I fully expect that San Jose Councilman @BienDoanSJ will condemn this event, not participate and clarify as to how he is even remotely associated with these hateful organizers. pic.twitter.com/ZtdsiFEf2D

— Evan Low (@Evan_Low) September 1, 2023

An email to the organization requesting comment went unanswered.

The incident involving the councilmember comes amid a national culture war within America’s classrooms, where heated protests are increasingly occurring at school board meetings over curriculum that often includes LGBTQ themes and sexual education. Critics of the debate say “parental rights” groups are a cover for anti-LGBTQ campaigns, while others say parents should have a stronger voice on what is taught inside the classroom. This week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit against Chino Valley Unified School District over its recent policy that alerts parents if their child starts using a name or pronoun different than the one listed on official records.

Thursday’s flyer sparked immediate reactions from South Bay politicians, like Assemblymember Evan Low and Sunnyvale Councilmember Richard Mehlinger who both expressed concerns over why Doan was attending the event. Since the release of Doan’s explanation, Mehlinger has thanked the councilmember for his “swift and thoughtful” statement.

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When asked why Doan initially was in touch with Informed Parents of Silicon Valley in the first place, Deputy Chief of Staff Jonathan Fleming explained that an individual representing the group named Larry Pegram met with Doan on Aug. 25 after reaching out to the councilmember’s office. Fleming said the meeting was an “ice breaker” and didn’t include any conversation about the LGBTQ community. After the meeting, Fleming says Pegram invited the councilmember to a meet and greet with parents.

“There was no mention of additional meeting agenda or the material seen on the flyer,” wrote Fleming in a statement. “If there had been, the Councilmember would never have agreed to attend.”