GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Members of the community and elected officials have recently called for scrutiny of a Guilford County nonprofit in two separate incidents.
On October 11, Jennifer Ruppe with Guilford Green Foundation and LGBTQ Center was joined by several members of the community at a school board meeting, bringing up her concern with the group Take Back Our Schools – GCS, a 501(c)4 nonprofit that is endorsing and promoting several candidates for school board in the upcoming election.
Ruppe outlined that the group was part of a national pattern of political groups seeking to change the makeup of local school boards, often to the detriment of the LGBTQ+ community, she said. Students with Guilford County Schools as well as faculty members and community members spoke up about their concerns with how Guilford County Schools handled issues with their LGBTQ+ students and staff and their concerns with how the group might influence administrators.
Then, on Oct. 21 Deena Hayes and Winston McGregor, the chair and vice chair of the Guilford County School Board, penned letters to the Secretary of State and North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein, requesting an investigation into the group due to a filing report that indicated the group was a 501(c)3 but publicly advertising they were a 501(c)4.
Laws around nonprofits restrict political activity for 501(c)3s, but 501(c)4s can participate in political activity as long as it’s less than half of their actions. 501(c)4s are not allowed to donate directly to campaigns but can help create things like lawn signs and flyers for candidates. Take Back Our Schools clarified that this was a clerical error that was rectified and that they have been operating within the legal definition of a 501(c)4.
“We are well under the limit of 49% of our actions being political campaign activities,” said Gene Parker, the treasurer for Take Back Our Schools.
Much of their social media activity is dedicated to their candidates, but they also share news stories about the school districts as well as videos of fights at GCS, which the school board has taken time in meetings to ask people not to circulate.
When asked about what other services TBOS provides beyond their political campaigning, Parker said that they provide legal support and education.
“We have provided legal support for families whose children have suffered injury at the hands of GCS. In particular, one student was given a covid shot without their personal nor their family approval. We have funded educational programs about the dangers of some of the radical theories that the GCS is pushing down the throats of our teachers, staff and kids. We have done education around how to handle the appearance of pornographic materials in elementary school libraries. We provide enormous support to families who are concerned with the poor results our schools are achieving and help them strategize on how to work through these issues,” said Parker.
The case of the family who alleged their child was vaccinated without approval happened in January with a Western Guilford High School football player.
Parker did not provide specifics on what the educational programs they fund consist of, nor were specific details about the allegations of pornography in elementary school libraries given.
“You can listen to their statements at candidate forums where one endorsed candidate Demetria Carter, for example, claimed teachers were reading books about sex between men to 8-year-olds at school,” said Hayes, addressing these allegations. “That is patently false.”
Hayes said they are not trying to shut anyone down or dampen their rights to advocate as they see fit, but they feel “compelled” to call out the group for hurling what they say are “unfounded accusations” and hold them accountable in the event they were operating inappropriately.
“We expect the authorities would ensure there weren’t other errors that meant they were operating illegally. They have accused the district and school leaders of acting illegally. They have made claims that then show up in audit inquiries that have cost the district money and time,” said Hayes.
Hayes went on to say that none of the inquiries that have been presented by TBOS have resulted in any findings of illegal or inappropriate activity.
“GCS is held to a standard of transparency which we vigorously adhere to. TBOS operates in the dark, often slinging unfounded accusations,” said Hayes. “For us, it is the right thing to do.”
Hayes noted that she is running unopposed and McGregor is not up for reelection this year.
Take Back Our Schools questioned the decision of Hayes and McGregor to target a “tiny non-profit” rather than focus their energy on issues they believe are more pressing.