The Truth About the False Allegations Made Against Your New Trier Neighbors
Paul Traynor aired his video, “The Tip of the Spear” in Wilmette on April 2nd. This was just two days before the local election it features as one of its themes. He put it on Youtube the same day. We checked with every person/organization in the video who we could contact. We learned he did not speak with or interview any of these subjects, or check the veracity of any allegations he makes by contacting representatives of any of the named organizations in advance of the video’s release. In other words, his conjectures amount to ideologically driven – but as we show demonstrably wrong – conclusions.
For instance he claimed, based on an early February news report, that “Parents of New Trier” IS a 501 c3 tax exempted organization. He then uses this declaration to jump to conclusions about fundraising and other nefarious activities. In fact we do not have, have not sought, and are not seeking tax exempted status. Why? Because forming a C3 is a lengthy and expensive process, and since weren’t fundraising – the crux of Mr. Traynor’s claims against us – there was no reason to do so. The fact that we never formed or even began the process of forming a C3 in fact demonstrates that we weren’t fundraising. A simple check with one of PONT’s principals, or call to the Secretary of State’s office, will confirm this.
(Update May 2 – Inexplicably, Mr. Traynor – who has been presented repeatedly and directly with this fact, continues to falsely and publicly claim that we are a tax-exempt organization.)
He also declares that “Parents of New Trier’s” coordination with outside influences can be somehow proven by the fact that we did not attend the November meeting about the Seminar Day schedule. But in fact, Betsy Hart and other parents (who would later build “Parents of New Trier”) were at that meeting. Betsy spoke out there, which is actually what started the buzz about the impending Seminar Day, by mid-November of ’16. Again Mr. Traynor builds conspiracy theories based around demonstrably wrong information which he refuses to correct when presented with facts. Another simple call on this one would have clarified.
It seems that the producers/directors of “Spear” don’t want clarity.
Below, we review just the first 10 minutes for you which easily exposes – line by line – a sampling of the falsehoods the film contains. The time marked “allegations” are direct quotes unless otherwise noted.
ALLEGATION: :37 – “an alleged controversy broke out”
TRUTH: A valid controversy existed. The School Board and administration engaged with Parents of New Trier (PONT), a dedicated Facebook page was created for all parties to discuss (with lively discussions ensuing) and national, regional and local media found the situation engaging enough to cover it extensively. These facts evidence controversy.
Further, the Wall Street Journal is one of the most esteemed and balanced media outlets in the country. They are not “instructed” to write about a topic and do not manufacture controversies. Once the WSJ discovered the New Trier controversy, it found genuine parallels with what is happening on college campuses in our country and chose to cover it along with other national media outlets.
If this controversy over Seminar Day was not authentic and worrisome to Seminar Day supporters, why did they bother to fight so hard to shut PONT down? Clearly, there was concern that PONT might have some valid arguments, otherwise we would not be worth the time to engage. Further, this entire movie project manufactures fake controversy by attempting to tie multiple completely unrelated organizations and individuals into some grand conspiracy theory to undermine public education. Talk about fake news.
ALLEGATION: 1:10 – “Opposition within the district was very vocal but very small.”
TRUTH: Vocal yes, small no. We had 430 signatures to support changing the Seminar Day curriculum, the vast majority of which were New Trier parents, and taxpayers. And many voices were scared to be vocal as PONT was going up against the behemoth of public education where there could be retribution against their children for speaking out. See Petition Voices. Instances of teacher pressure to attend Seminar Day were reported as well as instances where a teacher publicly berated a student in front of class for not attending.
Furthermore, “I Support Seminar Day’s” many signatures were, we now know, generated by the lobbying group secretly behind the whole effort of “I Support Seminar Day” – Stand for Children, Illinois. The Truth about “I Support Seminar Day” (AKA, Stand.org, Illinois)
ALLEGATION: 1:21 – “Illinois Family Law Institute has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
TRUTH: The FBI has stopped using Southern Poverty Law Center as a source of “hate crime” because of their questionable record and finances. The SPLC’s identifications and listings of hate groups have been the subject of controversy. At one point, Ben Carson was on their watch list. Read here about SPLC’s role in the Middlebury incident this past March.
ALLEGATION: 2:58 – “is it coming to your school? In this political climate with a lot of political action committee money floating around. . and the fight over public education being front and center. . . anything’s possible.” [Mr. Traynor sharing opinion on Steve Cochran show]
TRUTH Teachers unions donate more money to political campaigns nationally than any other professional group. Meanwhile, the opposition to PONT was supported by an outside nonprofit, Stand.org and Election filings prove that the local Independent Party candidates who ran for political office on April 4th received $0 PAC money – in direct contradiction to Mr. Traynor’s assertions. These filings also show that the Economy Party which Mr. Traynor actively supported received many outside contributions from partisan sources.
ALLEGATION 3:14 – “my personal opinion, I think it is an attack on public education, I think they want to dissolve New Trier township and I think they want to introduce vouchers.”
TRUTH – What do verified parents of New Trier students, sincerely concerned about requesting balance from the school regarding curriculum for a one day seminar, have to do with dissolving the township and introducing vouchers?
ALLEGATION 3:32 – “There’s 100 to 1 support for us . . and this tiny, tiny group that doesn’t support this that is filled with professional conservative media personalities, pundits and like you said big PAC money. . .”
TRUTH: As is turns out, 25% of students had parents who excused them from school on Seminar Day, for a variety of reasons. This amounted to almost 1000 students, or five times the usual number. See attendance records from 2/28/17. Clearly this is not 100:1 support for the program. Moreover, the Stand.org/”I Support Seminar Day” adherents may have cranked out nearly 6,000 petition signatures with their highly calculated fear mongering of “outside” groups “misrepresenting” Seminar Day but even this hardly represents 100 to 1 against 430 mostly local parents and tax payers. Stand.org did effectively shut down these parents and taxpayers in direct violation of Stand.org’s Illinois tax exempted charter. Letter to the Board of Stand.Org.
These parents were genuinely concerned about the lack of balance in the day. In America, freedom of speech and diversity of thought is not a right granted by winning a “popularity” contest.
Perhaps most important “100 to 1” support is belied by the fact that on April 17, the New Trier High School Board announced that there will be no Seminar Day on race next year, despite the fact that a one had been contemplated for next year, since and school will be held on Martin Luther King day given our construction schedule. (There will be discussions in advisory about Martin Luther King specifically, which sounds great to us!) “100 to 1” support would have produced another Seminar Day.
ALLEGATION 3:49 “Dan Proft came and was live tweeting from our event, had it on his radio show multiple times. . . they’re sitting on $10 millions bucks.”
TRUTH: Dan Proft has a news/opinion radio show where he covers many topics, including issues of free speech and the left-leaning propensity of the education system. His PAC donated no money to Parents of New Trier, nor, as he was later accused of doing, to independent candidates running for New Trier Township Board. Filings released April 15th demonstrate same.
ALLEGATION 4:20 “Where I shared my belief that he [Proft] was the driving force behind this whole controversy. . .”
TRUTH: Parents of New Trier was started by concerned parents living in the district who wanted intellectual diversity and balance sorely lacking added to the Seminar Day curriculum. This topic was already being discussed among a growing group of New Trier parents (as it had been a hot button the year before) by mid-November, after the parents meeting, specifically about the upcoming Seminar Day, in November. The announcement about the 100 panel discussions, with content and many of the speakers noted, was revealed on New Trier High School’s public and widely accessed website starting on December 12. Dan Proft’s news show producer called Betsy Hart for the first time in Mid-January.
Communications to New Trier BOE and admin dating back to the February 2016 School Board meeting and encompassing multiple email exchanges in the fall of 2016 evidence the controversy organically formed.
ALLEGATION: 4:30 “This feels like a controversy that is being ginned up by outside influences. . .this PONT group says they’re growing and organic but I don’t think it’s denigrating of me to say there is really no evidence that they’re anything other than a couple of commentators who’ve roped in a couple of parents who have done a lot of echo chamber appearances.
TRUTH: Just because Mr. Traynor feels something and thinks a thought does not make it so. Parents of New Trier was started by concerned parents living in the district who wanted intellectual diversity added to the Seminar Day curriculum. It became a national news story because of the controversial content of Seminar Day and the growing phenomenon of mobs shutting down outside voices on college campuses. National news organizations made the link. Neither Paul Traynor nor Parents of New Trier has any control over any media outlets. As noted, Mr. Traynor later in the film (beyond the first 15 minutes sampled here) cites as evidence of this claim that Betsy Hart/PONT did not attend the November meeting on Seminar Day. Not only is he flat out wrong about that assertion, but that meeting helped to spark the organic response that ensued.
Also, please consider that Paul Traynor was only too happy to receive favorable coverage for “Tip of the Spear” as well as his campaign against PONT from the Chicago Tribune on multiple occasions.
ALLEGATION: 4:57 “You have a $10M war chest that you got in the last year from Governor Rauner . . . Richard Uihlein and Todd Ricketts . . who you know they’re all kind of involved in this and the Policy Circle and. . .”
TRUTH: Again, when it comes to Parents of New Trier not a dime of outside funding went into PONT. PONT had no connection or communcation with Governor Rauner, RIchard Uihlein or Todd Ricketts. Parents of New Trier was started by concerned parents living in the district who wanted intellectual diversity and balance sorely lacking in Seminar Day added to the day’s curriculum. A small pool combined their own money to pay for things like Betsy Hart’s brother, a part-time missionary, to help develop a WordPress platform for the website the Parents of New Trier themselves then built and managed.
On the other hand, “I Support Seminar Day” used resources of a multi-million dollar non- profit, Stand.org, to host and run its survey collection, and to collect donations for its effort. Names gathered from their survey have been subsequently solicited by Stand.org for monetary donations and political action.
Ironically, 2/3 of Paul Traynor’s backers from his Kickstarter campaign were from outside of New Trier Township.
ALLEGATION: 5:09 “to say there’s this big scale indoctrination when you’re getting paid from very wealthy deep-pocketed outside very conservative voices to make this a national issue . . . I would suggest the only reason it’s been on TV is because. . . you keep talking about it.”
TRUTH: See above.
ALLEGATION 5:48 “but there wasn’t [opposition], if you saw the clips. . . when they said stand up and they had the banner they had over 6,000 signatures in support of this, the opposition was basically Dan live tweeting in the front row with Jasmine and Betsy.”
TRUTH: 430 people, the vast majority New Trier parents and taxpayers, signed our petition to add diversity to Seminar Day. School Board member John Myefski stated on the record at the March 20 New Trier School Board meeting that the unrolling of the banner was obnoxious and disappointing. That episode was, we now know, orchestrated by Mimi Rodman and Stand.org. And anyway, don’t minority voices deserve to be heard?
(By the way – are you asking by this point why Mr. Traynor is utterly uninterested in the real, and only story of outside influence and bullying when it came to New Trier’s Seminar Day on race, meaning the secret effort by Stand.org, Illinois? So are we!)
ALLEGATION: 6:09 “As events unfolded, I became more and more convinced that there was something else at play, that outside interests, many of them associated with Dan Proft were conspiring with clandestine groups right here in our community to paint New Trier in a terrible light and trying to stoke a national controversy.”
TRUTH: Parents of New Trier was started by concerned parents living in the district who wanted intellectual diversity and balance sorely lacking in Seminar Day added to the day’s curriculum. In addition to regular citizens who believe in ideas outlined in The Constitution that promote freedom, opportunity and responsible government, there are also organizations within New Trier Township which openly support these ideas, because these are American ideas. They are not clandestine.
ALLEGATION: 6:32 “the biggest problem with telling this story is the sheer size of it, there are so many different components and elements to it that it’s very hard to track them all and see how they interconnect. Conservative think tanks, mega-donors, education groups, political groups, citizens of NT township, local ,statewide and national politicians [showing Illinois Policy Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Heartland Institute, Todd and Sylvie Ricketts, Richard Uehline, Virtual Learning Solutions, K-12, Illinois Opportunity Project, Americans for Prosperity, New Trier Republican Organization, Betsy Hart, Jasmine Hauser, Beth Feeley, Joan LaSonde, Mark Weyermuller, Darcy Powers, Kathy Myalls, Bob Costello, Stacey Woehrle, Governer Rauner, President Trump, Betsy DeVos and Policy Circle]”
TRUTH: It is only a problem when attempting to make a vast interconnection that does not exist. There is and was no concerted effort by all of these individuals and entities to do anything together anywhere. Of course, there are organizations and regular citizens who believe in ideas outlined in the Constitution that promote freedom, opportunity, and responsible government. They believe in these ideas and are active and engaged in their communities to promote these ideas, even as they go about everyday lives. Sometimes the lives of these citizens or the things they are engaged in in their communities happen to overlap. This is not North Korea. This is America, and that’s allowed here. It’s only complicated to Mr. Traynor because he disagrees with these ideas and perhaps wishes these groups didn’t exist and that some of these individuals did not fraternize.
ALLEGATION: 7:25 “It’s almost impossible to grasp the entire web of connectivity and its implications. And I believe that is completely by design. Because the more convoluted and obtuse it seems, the easier it will be to advance an agenda without the citizens of New Trier township knowing. . . in my opinion, that is exactly what is going on…”
TRUTH: Again, there is no magic dictator’s hand weaving together anything. See above. Free people with free minds making free associations and giving of their time, talent and treasures to causes they care about is the American way. Often these people intersect in different ways to work with each other on common goals. It’s organic. It happens every day in this country – the left the right and everybody in between does it – even Mr. Traynor.
And again, just because Mr. Traynor thinks or has a feeling does not make it true.
ALLEGATION: 8:04 “I respect your right to disagree with me.”
TRUTH: Except that Mr. Traynor may make a video about you if you do, filled with misinformation, as he did in this case.
ALLEGATION: 8:38 “Opposition to Seminar Day came largely from conservative voices but I do not believe it represents a true conservative stance.”
TRUTH So why not outline what your take on a conservative stance is?
ALLEGATION: 8:55 “I believe the original Seminar Day opposition came from a small group of outliers and that their actions trouble moderates, conservatives and progressives alike.”
TRUTH: Even he acknowledges that [He says at 8:52] “a lot of parents may have shared some of the opposition’s opinion.” The fact that it grew into a major national controversy with many mainstream media outlets covering it, with over 25 percent of students not attending Seminar Day and excused by their parents, and 430 people signing the Parents of New Trier Petition, precisely because a significant group of parents DID have concerns about it. We expressed those in detail, and civilly. Mr. Traynor has not ever spoken to the merits of the arguments. He has only attacked and misinformed.
And again Mr. Traynor – don’t minority voices matter too??
ALLEGATION: 9:11 “I have no problem with the principles of conservatism . . . but I think this was something else.”
TRUTH: As a “self described progressive,” it would be more honest for Mr. Traynor to say he does have a problem with principles of conservatism, because by definition he does. This film demonstrates, however, he does not peacefully coexist with such different principles, but rather demonstrates intolerance of them.
ALLEGATION: 9:33 “There are shady and ideological driven forces at work across our nation, in our state and now in our own backyard. It is essential we identify them and name them for what they are.”
TRUTH: Not sure, but our guess is this includes organizers of events very much opposed to “Parents of New Trier.”
ALLEGATION: 9:44 on screen “perhaps not everyone is operating in good faith”
TRUTH Perhaps that includes Mr. Traynor for starters?