ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WGHP) — A member of the Asheville City Board of Education has resigned from her position due to anti-trans attacks during school board meetings.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Peyton O’Conner announced her resignation from the Asheville City Board of Education on Monday, effective immediately.
The Citizen-Times says that a pastor, Ronald Gates, representing Alliance Defending Freedom, began speaking at ACS meetings in October. Gates repeatedly misgendered O’Conner and spread anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric as an “ambassador” for ADF.
Alliance Defending Freedom is defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. It is based in Arizona and was first designated as an LGBTQ+ hate group in 2016, stating that “it works to dehumanize LGBTQ+ people and restrict their rights for being who they are.”
Alliance Defending Freedom writes on its website that it is a “legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.”
O’Conner said Monday she made the decision to resign following a “dust-up” at the Nov. 16 board meeting, according to the Citizen-Times. At that meeting, O’Conner ripped up a letter given to the board that asked “that parents, school board members and local clergy be informed if teachers plan to allow “indoctrination teaching” in the school system.”
The video, posted by the Board of Education of their YouTube channel, shows the exchange, starting about an hour and eight minutes into the recording. Gates misgenders O’Conner despite multiple board members asking him not to and says in part, “we should be focusing on reading, writing, and history, true history, instead of sexual immorality or indoctrination or CRT.”
These are similar to talking points used by groups in the Triad like FACTS Taskforce 2.0 and Take Back Our Schools – GCS, who challenge books available in school libraries, often with LGBTQ+ themes, and have complained about classroom decorations used by LGBTQ+ teachers within the district.
O’Conner was the first transgender board member in Asheville City Schools and indeed, likely anywhere in North Carolina, according to the Citizen-Times.
In a Facebook post on Monday, O’Conner describes the difficult decision to resign and outlines ADF’s playbook of litigation and media attention.
“The ADF has a playbook, it has already been put into play. Essentially, Mr. Gates will continue attacking until he is censured in a way that allows him (with the assistance of the ADF) to create a lawsuit and turn our district into the circus and s— show that he and the ADF desire. This isn’t a guess, the ADF makes no attempt to hide its tactics. It’s a group with 1.6 million followers, they are looking for their next opportunity for their next Fox News press blitz,” she wrote on Facebook.
O’Conner was appointed in March of 2021 and her term was meant to last until 2024. Her replacement will be appointed by the Asheville City Council.
In the Piedmont Triad, Take Back Our Schools – GCS faced scrutiny for campaign fund usage, and has announced on their now-deleted Facebook that they are ceasing operations, though they say that is because they no longer have volunteers who want to take over running the group.