More than city or county government meetings, school board meetings in recent years across the country have become the free-wheeling town squares of old, with limited controls. Members of the public or elected officials grandstand on social and political issues, at times with only vague connections to education or vaguer connections to evidence or truth.
Since 2019, when a self-described pastor made false statements about transitioning and openly insulted a transgender student who was in the room, Flagler County School Board meetings have similarly been the stage for fabrications, falsehoods, mischaracterizations and fallacies, from school board members speaking from the dais or from members of the public during open comment segments–on Covid, on vaccines, on the Black Lives Matter movement, on LGBTQ issues, on book bans.
For all that, a comment during last Tuesday’s board meeting was a first in Flagler, and appears to be a first at any school board meeting in Florida or elsewhere in the country: a parent who was pressing for book bans justified Hitler’s book-burning in the Nazi Germany of the 1930s, as if to suggest that the same could be done harmlessly here.
“As far as books that Hitler banned,” Alison Lauderdale, parent of a child in the district said, “most of the books were actually pamphlets written by a child psychologist whose body of work contained positive views of pedophilia, and his own records of him and his assistant sexually abusing children. You won’t hear about that part in public school, though. You have to go and find that yourself.”
Lauderdale did not say where the information could be found.
It does not exist, at least not in documented, creditable form, because the statement is patently false. She was not corrected at any point, though school board members on occasion have devoted parts of their closing comments to correct the record, especially when the board’s chamber is abused to peddle egregious, insulting or outright false statements.
The statement was also a reflection of the continuing trend at public meetings of individuals using the legitimizing power of a public dais or podium to make unaccountable, demonstrably false statements, at times with direct relevance–or influence–on public policy affecting students or constituents. The elected or members of the public are aware that that in the moment, the statements are likely neither to be called out nor verified later, even when those leading the meeting could correct the record or denounce an obviously inflammatory claim or outrageous justification. The grandstanding is its own reward. Tuesday was another example.
Substantial scholarship has been written on Hitler’s book-burning, which began with the notorious mass burning of books on May 10, 1933 in German universities across the country after propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’s creation of the “Reichsministerium fur Volksaufklarung,” or the Reich’s Propaganda Ministry. Noting in a journal article that “research into the book-burning has been carried out with typical German thoroughness,” the historian J.M. Ritchie underscored that the movement relied on the enthusiastic involvement of university students and librarians supportive of the Nazi Party.
Some 25,000 books were burned that day alone, targeting Jewish and liberal writers and those considered “un-German,” like Thomas Mann (“The Magic Mountain”), Erich Maria Remarque (“All Quiet on the Western Front”), Bertolt Brecht and Einstein among them. It was the beginning of a long reign of censorship and intellectual repression of all things considered not purely German.
Ongoing book bans, which doubled in 2022 over 2021, to a new record, according to the American Library Association, with the vast majority of targeted titles “written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.” Like Jews, minorities and homosexuals, along with their books, were particularly targeted throughout the Third Reich’s 12-year reign of terror.
Ritchie also noted that the book-burning wasn’t an invention of Nazi Germany: Nazi speeches in May 1933 celebrated the book-burnings carried out by the friends of Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation, with numerous subsequent book-burnings by church authorities once Gutenberg’s press proliferated.
Lauderdale, who described herself as a published author, was addressing the school board in the context of its decision to ban or not ban Sold, the Patricia McCormick novel written from the perspective of a 13-year-old Nepalese girl trafficked into sexual slavery in India.
The meeting by then had included its share of mis-characterizations from the dais, as when Will Furry, a school board member, described the book as containing “explicit” sexual language. It does not contain so much as the word “sex,” except in the author’s note, contains no profanity, no words associated with the sexual act aside from two metaphorical passages.
While Furry accurately said that the book “deals with child rape,” his claim that it included instances of “torturing of minor children and their genitalia” could only be a gross distortion of the more allusive line that reads, “He grunts and struggles, trying to fit himself inside me. With a sudden thrust I am torn in two,” but that hardly aligns with Furry’s more graphic description.
Furry was in dissent when the board voted 3-2 to support the superintendent’s recommendation and retain Sold on high school library shelves.
Lauderdale spoke before the vote and near the end of the meeting, after the vote, adding another inaccuracy: “So as far as security, keeping kids safe, you need to focus on internet security, if you’re worried about trafficking, because the reason kids can see worse than it is in these books, is because the internet in the schools is basically open.” The school’s network is strictly controlled and at times overly restrictive, including barring access to social media sites. Students’ capabilities to access sites on their own phones’ networks are out of the district’s controls.
Lauderdale did not go so far as to ask for book burnings, but suggested that rather than allow for book challenges, “why don’t we have a committee that has to justify why a sexually explicit book should be allowed in the first place? With no children admitted, so that the books can be read aloud?”
In fact, the committees set up by the district, both at the school level and the district level, are devoting gargantuan amounts of time and energy doing exactly that: reading the books under challenge, reviewing them, and justifying what they should or should not be retained, though their decision has twice been overridden by the superintendent, as it was again on Thursday, undermining the purpose and legitimacy of those committees.
James Mejuto says
What do I think:? Just wonderful! Americans sitting completely enthralled with a American fascist’s speech on burning books here in America, here in the year 2023 in Florida in step with an ultra-right governor who agrees. Just that picture of contented citizens sitting by without a presence of challenge to this bitch condemning education and allowing students their right to read and explore.
That Allison Lauderdale is a pure example of an American fascist who should never have been allowed to continue speaking her crap.
What happened to the members of the Board who decided conveniently to step aside?
THIS IS AN AMERICAN DISGRACE ! ! !
These are the exact same cultish personalities who have been brainwashed by the far-right conspiracy theorists who fabricated sensational fantasies that Hillary Clinton and other Dems were sexually molesting chidren, then killing them and eating their bodies in the basement of a NY pizza parlor. Now, for the very first time in history since the Nazi atrocities during WWII, some random wingnut woman has the audacity to put forward during a public school board meeting some bizarre fantasy that Hitler’s book bans were justified because, as she hallucinates, they were mainly about stopping child predators, LOL! I wonder just how many in attendance at this school board meeting swallowed her crapola without even a thought? This is why it is so important to teach critical thinking skills in our schools before the next generation of school students becomes paranoid, are as easily brainwashed with garbage as this woman, and blindly accepts delusional falsehoods as fact without taking the time to verify what random wingnuts spout from their pie holes.
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
“Reichsministerium fur Volksaufklarung” ruffly translates to “Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment”, you have to ask yourself which public were they trying to enlighten? Well right here in Flagler, Alison and her like are trying to spread false stories as history. Is this what every parent in Flagler county wants? I would think not, I would hope that the majority of parents will stand up to this lunacy and stop the madness that these so called “Moms” spread before it’s too late like Hitlers Germany.
Nancy N. says
Extremely disappointed that not a single board member used their own comment period to correct this speaker’s lies. It’s not just lies like this that create a fascist state – it’s the people that stand by silently when they are told that are complicit.
Rick G says
Its a shame that Ms. Lauderdale is now the poster person for QAnon idiocy in our area. She should have researched this more. Not that it would have helped.
Deborah Coffey says
Is there any way to know how many other Nazis are living in Flagler County? Should those with Jewish heritage or currently practicing Jews be worried about their safety or, do only our Black and LGBTQ brothers and sisters need to be scared to death? This stupid demonstration is disgusting!
Deborah: George Soros is Jewish, and wealthy, therefore a good enemy target for Republicans.
As an LGBTQ person, there’s a reason why I will likely never return to living in Flagler full time. I’m fearful of my right to be able to rent or work or use a public bathroom or receive my medications. This despite growing up and living here for 21 years, making me “more Floridian” and “more of a Flagler native” than many of the folks who moved down here to start passing those laws. I’ve been effectively chased out my own home.
Aves, I can see why you would feel that way, and it makes me sad. I believe that everybody has the right to feel comfortable in their own skin, worship or not worship as they choose, and love whomever they wish (as long as they are consenting adults).
@Same old dirty (Republican Party Plutocrat) deeds
The gullible, led by the nose by shitheads hovering in the background and hiding behind curtains of money.
These snake handlers are so inept and clumsy as to be ridiculous. They’re the proverbial medicine man/faith healer’s shill reciting gibberish they don’t understand, and can’t explain except by reading the instructions from the bag man (backed by billions of dollars) that recruited them. Is the Tea Party already forgotten?
Follow the money
Thank you for your comments. At times they are a needed breathe of fresh air to folks like me that are not so wise
It is absolutely shameful that those elected to serve on the Board allowed blatant misinformation and lies to be shared without correction or challenge. This woman was spewing hatred and condoning the behavior of Hitler! You can not get much more disgusting than that! As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
If our school board continues allowing, without challenge, public statements that condone the behavior of a Nazi, then evil will triumph in Flagler County!
Banning and burning books from the libraries. It is interesting the same ethnic group banned African Americans from libraries, and burned some of their houses. The country we live in.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
SHE’S A TOTAL DISGRACE!
Mea Culpa Mea Culpa Mea Maxima Culpa
Here is what the school board is going to do.
Publicly condemn this callous individual and her antisemitic views who was granted the liberty to justify the atrocities committed by Hitler, this in the presence of knowledgeable school board members.
Afterwards, the school board shall submit a formal grievance against this woman to the Anti-Defamation League to determine whether or not she merits a vigilant eye. They will attach the video of her comments starting at the 2:36:47 mark. It is crucial that each member of the school board takes heed of this woman’s words, as antisemitic lies and justification of holocaust barbarity like hers continue to fester and multiply within public spaces.
From ADL: If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of antisemitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate, please report it using the incident form below. We will work to assess your situation and respond as quickly as possible. Any personal information provided will be kept strictly confidential.
Deborah Coffey says
Very important. Thank you.
James Mejuto says
What do I think?: The first order of business for the ADL is to look at this American fascist, Hitler admirer, Alison Lauderdale. It would be hard to believe she is not a member of a Nazi group, here in Flagler County.
Pissed in PC says
I’ll send it to the ADL in DC as I have an acquaintance that works for them. He’s got me sending everything from Florida.
The problem might lie in determining exactly to which Flagler Nazi group she belongs. There was a gaggle of Marjorie Taylor Greene wannabes on display at several Flagler venues this weekend.
Alison Lauderdale is ignorant of history and therefore her comments are no more worthwhile than breathing toxic fumes. Unfortunately, her ignorance is just part of a larger part of our population that can not distinguish between facts and crap. This leads to stupid actions on their part. Fortunately she is not part of the county school board. Unfortunately, she has fellow ignorants on the school board who likely believe as she does.
These are sad times in Flagler County.
Michael Cocchiola says
I was there and I spoke before this woman. She seemed to read from stream-of-consciousness notes, calling our school system a disgrace and our teachers and administrators groomers.
I loved it!! I knew right then that she channeled the craziness of the Moms for Liberty. I knew that she branded this group as having less interest in banning books than in banning public schools. She was the poster mom for anti-public school rhetoric.
I hope to see a few more like her to remind us and the school board just what this fight is about.
Brad W says
This is a vile statement filled with gross inaccuracies. by the person. I question the morality of anyone who tries to minimize anything the Nazi Party and Hitler ever did. Every vile thing they did contributed towards their efforts that inflicted horrific and unimaginable crimes against humanity and loss of life. It is a spit in the face to every American and Allied soldiers and citizens who stood up and sacrificed to bring an end to the evil that regime had inflicted upon the world. A part of their ability to do what they did was those who joined in to silence others and restrict free speech through mass book burnings and legislation. Individuals who willfully gave up their rights to a government and actively worked to take away the rights of others. Having had worked around actual authors and the book world for a while, I had never encountered any author in support of censoring and banning books. Simply disgusting.
First of all, I am offended as my home town is Fort Lauderdale. No relation here, for sure.
You know why today is different? If you go back, just a few years, someone like this woman would be allowed to speak, but everyone would dismiss her. Just another wackadoo. Okay, next!
Pissed in PC says
Here we go with the blatant support for Nazis. WTF is wrong with our school board that they didn’t condemn her book burning speech? It’s time to limit these QAnon, Jew hating, batshit crazy nut jobs from banning books. We need to stop these frivolous ones that are using canned responses on their complaint forms. Do not allow those without a child or grandchild in the school system here to file a complaint. Fight back people!
The dude says
If you’re still looking for who was spreading and posting antisemitic flyers in Volusia county, I’d suggest a long hard look at this woman and her circle of friends.
Edith Campins says
It is the same old thing…tell a lie often enough and the uneducated will believe.