Sign Telling Identity-Confused Kids 'I'm Your Mom Now' Sparks Controversy

A sign posted at a Wisconsin high school told students"If Your Parents Aren't Accepting Of Your Identity I'm Your Mom Now," and it has created controversy in the community.

The poster includes the hashtag #freemomhugs below it and is adorned with the rainbow flag and shows a momma bear and her cubs.

This latest incident has come to light after recent criticism from more than one school board candidate concerning teachers in the district being required to complete professional development training, which included taking a "white privilege quiz."

The poster was shared via a tweet by Parents Defending Education, a "nonprofit national, grassroots nonprofit empowering parents to advocate for classrooms that educate – not indoctrinate," according to their account.

Teri Piper Thompson, communications manager of the Eau Claire Area School District, confirmed to Newsweek that the sign was posted on a door at Eau Claire's North High School before it was taken down. Piper Thompson said she could not comment further. Prior to talking with her, Newsweek had reached out to the school's principal Kurt Madsen.

Newsweek also reached out to current school board president Tim Nordin, incumbent school board member Marquell Johnson and board candidate Stephanie Farrar for comment. Nordin said he couldn't comment because the incident had to do with an individual staff member and would violate Wisconsin state law regarding confidentiality while Farrar said she couldn't comment on the situation because she didn't know the details surrounding it.

According to a report by the website Wisconsin Right Now, the sign was also visible in a December 2021 post on the Eau Claire North High School Facebook page, which was announcing a new staff member named Jessica France. That post is no longer visible. The conservative news outlet also noted that a source who didn't want to be identified said other teachers had posted the sign on their doors.

Late last month, teachers attended a staff development day in which content included a slide with direction to teachers that "...parents are not entitled to know their kids' identities. That knowledge must be earned."

The training was part of the school district's 2021-2022 equity professional development addressing "Safe Spaces."

School Board candidate Corey Cronrath told Newsweek he's been on the receiving end of some nasty comments from current school board members after he criticized the training and the fact that since the school board created an equity committee, it won't release its meeting minutes to the public.

"I've been called some things I haven't been called since boot camp in the Marine Corps," said Cronrath, who decided to run for the board after he was repeatedly asked to do so by other parents. That's after the family practice physician returned home from a deployment to Honduras.

He is joined by fellow candidates Nicole Everson and Melissa Winter.

"We were compelled to run because of the five-year decline in graduation rates and the down-trending in proficiency of test scores," said Cronrath.

Cronrath said he became more concerned after finding that "the tenants of the critical theories were being utilized in the professional training development of the district staff."

On her "Stephanie Farrar for ECASD School Board" Facebook page, fellow candidate Farrar posted on March 3rd she was "disappointed to see school board candidates attack and politicize professional development that the Eau Claire Area School District has implemented in order to keep children safe in schools."

In her post, Farrar singled out Cronrath, Everson and Winter as "pitting parents against teachers to score political points..."

"These candidates took issue with guidance that teachers should not reveal a child's gender identity or sexual orientation to parents. I can understand that taken out of context, this might seem like keeping important information about a child from their caregiver. However, the presentation included vital information pertaining not only to the high rates of suicide for LGBTQ youth, but also their high rates of homelessness, neglect, and abuse ..."

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Newsweek also reached out to Dr. Christopher Jorgenson, the director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, for comment.

"What is critical for us to understand about the poster in question at North High School is that it is symbolic of a much larger issue, which is that when queers are abjectly and completely rejected by their families, so much so that posters that say 'I'm your mom now' or symbol mom hugs or dad hugs, seek to fill in that gap not necessarily to replace a blood relative, which is impossible, but to be a mother or father figure," said Jorgenson. "The authors of the poster understand that while you cannot replace the person to whom someone was born, you can in fact serve as a mother or father figure."

He also spoke to the topic of equity, diversion and inclusion training and noted his involvement in the district's training in that area.

"The supposed controversy around 'parents are not entitled to their children's identity they have to win them'—that is because home for many queer students is hostile territory and school, whether it's a teacher, school nurse or principal, will perhaps be offering the only sense of home for that queer person," he said.

"Equity, diversity and inclusion training is not secret—people can access most of the conversation—these are conversations we have loudly and conspicuously. Where we run into trouble is when parents want public education to reflect their own private ideology."

For his part, Cronrath said he wants more transparency when it comes to district staff training.

"What we're asking for is the release of training material so the people of Eau Claire can make up their own minds," said Cronrath, who noted he doesn't blame teachers.

"Teachers get caught in the middle—they're being used as wedges instead of bridges," he said.

UPDATE 3/08/22 4:42 pm ET: This article was updated with the statement from Dr. Christopher Jorgenson.

lgbtq flag wisconsin flag capitol
A sign posted at a Wisconsin high school told students"If Your Parents Aren't Accepting Of Your Identity I'm Your Mom Now," and it has created controversy in the community. An LGBTQ flag flies over the Wisconsin State Capitol, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Madison, Wisconsin. Morry Gash/Associated Press