A disturbing image began circulating social media among Mansfield residents over the weekend.
In the photo, a young white male holds a noose around the neck of a young Black male on his knees next to the sign, “Healthy [racial slur] for sale. If interested, visit Summit baseball team,” referring to Summit High School in the Mansfield school district.
The image took off shortly after a school board trustee was arrested for assault and Mansfield ISD sent parents a letter saying that despite being jailed[,] Bianca Benavides Anderson would remain on the school board for another three years.
“There is so much money backing Benavides, she thinks she’s above the law,” said a concerned parent who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Most of Benavides’ backing comes from the far-right Patriot Mobile Action Committee, whose stated mission is to financially back conservative candidates running for school board in North Texas to “save America” from “woke politics,” whatever they are.
“If [Benavides] can violently attack someone and remain seated as a representative of our school district, what message does that send to our kids?” the parent continued. “I just don’t understand how someone with an assault charge on their record isn’t allowed to help with school activities or go on field trips with their children, yet this woman who was just incarcerated for assault last week will remain a trustee on our school board.”
A few days before the image went viral, a student told me she was frustrated with the board’s apathy toward a violent offender in a leadership position. “I’m worried about what might happen if the board looks the other way on this because that could send a message to students that as long as someone in Mansfield has enough money and privilege, they can pretty much do whatever they want.”
Many parents I talked to are also worried that if Mansfield ISD leadership can also ignore a racist viral image, there may be no end to the violence that leadership is inciting against non-whites and non-Christians.
The student’s parents, who also wished to remain anonymous, agreed with her, saying, “We were shocked at the indifference the district is showing about an elected official being allowed to assault someone and continue making decisions that will have a significant impact on the safety and welfare of our kids for at least three more years.”
Benavides did not return my request for comment.
Another parent who requested anonymity brought up a mailer sent out by Benavides’ campaign claiming that “woke politics” were to blame for the school shooting at Timberview High School in Mansfield last December, when a student and teacher were hospitalized. The parent thought it “shameful” that a school district leader would use a gun attack in a country overrunning with them as campaign fodder, especially when one of Patriot Mobile’s foremost goals is to fight against common sense gun control.
“We are not coming at the issue of Trustee Benavides’ assault charge from a place of anger,” the parent said. “We are coming from a place of healing and respect for our district standards. The students know about this, so if we just sweep it under the rug, it’s like we’re promoting ignorance, and isn’t that the opposite of what schools should be doing?”
Patriot Mobile Action more than came through on its promise to flood targeted school boards in North Texas with conservative majorities through obscene campaign donations never before seen in school board races. Patriot Mobile Action says it “launched its focus on four Tarrant County independent school districts (Southlake, Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller, and Mansfield). This advocacy resulted in 11 wins in four ISDs. That means over 100,000 North Texas students now have conservative leadership majorities on their boards. That was just the beginning.”
Indeed, Patriot Mobile Action targeted Mansfield in February, and all four candidates — Benavides, Keziah Valdes Farrar, Craig Tipping, and Courtney Lackey Wilson — won. Now the district is controlled by a conservative majority.
The PAC is backed by Christian cellphone company Patriot Mobile, which has put more than $500,000 into supporting conservative candidates across North Texas since January. In addition to the hundreds of thousands in funding, Patriot Mobile boasts the services of Leigh Wambsganss, who has over 30 years of experience managing political campaigns.
Parents are wondering what a political expert formerly contracted by presidential campaigns is doing mobilizing parents in their district to ban books on gay pornography — that don’t exist — and reject Critical Race Theory, a concept taught only in colleges. Many political experts argue that these newly trumpeted issues are merely distractions to beat back the progress made by Democrats in education over the last few decades. Meanwhile, Democrats are focused on regaining what was lost in education during the pandemic and the real crisis: a severe teacher shortage due to educators fed up with the political tensions and fleeing public schools for private or online teaching positions.