Who are Cypress Families for Public Schools?

Bryan James Henry
13 min readMay 23, 2024
CFPS Board of Directors at Weekley Center hosting school board candidate forum.


If you have recently started paying more attention to public education issues in Cy-Fair ISD, whether it be the failed proposal to hire chaplains to counsel students or the budget cuts or the recent censoring of science textbooks, you may have come across the group Cypress Families for Public Schools. You may be wondering who they are and what they stand for. As the founder of the group, I think now is an appropriate time to “reintroduce” the group to Cy-Fair residents looking to use their voice to advocate for public schools. We may not be your “cup of tea” and that’s fine, but if you identify with our mission and vision then we invite you to join us in non-partisan coalition-building to save Cy-Fair ISD from extremists and construct a district that meaningfully serves all students and families.

So, when, how, and why did we come about? I became aware in spring 2021 that school board meetings were becoming very heated and that a school board election was coming up in November. I attended my first board meeting in summer 2021, which I now call the “Summer of CRT,” and was shocked by the public comments from residents. As an educator myself, having taught social studies in a high school for 9 years, I knew that “critical race theory” was not being taught in any Cy-Fair ISD schools, much less imposed on elementary school aged children as one resident claimed. Residents and parents took turns denouncing CRT, accusing the district of indoctrinating children, and arguing that Christianity be promoted in the classroom. Seriously. I’m not making this up. You can watch the June 2021 meeting here. I left that meeting with two strong convictions: 1) the ideology of Christian Nationalism was ascendent in Cy-Fair; and 2) the school board election was likely to be won by candidates who sensationalized and politicized what are typically non-partisan elections.

Now, why were those my personal takeaways? First, as a social sciences/humanities educator I was familiar with Christian Nationalism and knew it when I saw it. Second, I had recently run for Texas House District 130 in 2020, as the Democratic candidate against Republican Tom Oliverson, and felt I had decent instincts about the dynamics of political campaigns. Red yard signs for Scott Henry, Lucas Scanlon, and Natalie Blasingame started popping up all over my neighborhood. I knew this was anecdotal, but anyone paying attention could feel where the momentum was leading. These three candidates all ran openly as conservative Republicans and received endorsements and money from highly ideological and partisan PACs (political action committees) like Texans for Educational Freedom and Steven Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas. Their campaigns were divisive and dishonest, but they won having campaigned against diversity and inclusion.

Alarmed by the political outcome of the 2021 school board election, which to me represented the arrival of Christian Nationalism to Cy-Fair ISD, I resolved to start a group to push back against the extremism. It is important to understand that Christian Nationalism is a real ideology, that you probably are not a Christian Nationalist, and that you probably know many Christian Nationalists. First, just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you’re a Christian Nationalist. Second, just because you are a patriotic Christian who loves America doesn’t mean you’re a Christian Nationalist. So, don’t assume when you hear people criticizing “Christian Nationalism” that they must be talking about you because you are a Christian and you love America. Also, don’t assume that you don’t need to understand or pay attention to stuff like political ideologies because “you’re not very political and just want to support public education.” Christian Nationalism is a threat to public education and American democracy, so it is important that you understand what it is and form your own opinion about it. The topic is easy to learn about these days with numerous books, podcasts, and documentaries coming out. I encourage you to investigate this topic on your own: Taking America Back for God, They Came for the Schools, Civic Education at a Crossroads, Straight White American Jesus podcast, God & Country documentary, Christians Against Christian Nationalism.

Long story short: Christian Nationalists are Christian supremacists who believe that religious pluralism and the separation of church and state are a threat to America’s “Christian identity.” Public schools, which according to Christian Nationalists are controlled by liberals and progressives, are seen as an anti-Christian obstacle because they insist on being neutral, tolerant, diverse, and inclusive. This is why Christian Nationalists want “vouchers” and why they want to take over public school boards. With power comes the ability to decide where the money goes, and which ideas get promoted. Hopefully, it is obvious to you that a public school system that serves everyone and teaches them how to coexist with others is foundational for the success of a diverse, pluralistic society. It is un-democratic to believe that one religious worldview should be imposed on society at large or serve as the basis for public policy, especially in public schools. A society where religion determines and/or controls politics is a theocracy, like Iran. The United States has always operated based on a separation of church and state that respects and celebrates religious differences. In 2021, I believed that these fundamental American values of pluralism, separation of church and state, and equality were under threat in Cy-Fair. So, I decided to invite like-minded people to join me in what was then called Cy-Fair Civic Alliance.

Cy-Fair Civic Alliance

Cy-Fair Civic Alliance started as a Facebook group for people frustrated and alarmed by the 2021 school board election results. While CFCA’s mission would be different, I got the idea for the group when I read about the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition (SARC). CFCA viewed the three new trustees, Henry, Scanlon, and Blasingame, as extremists who threatened the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion within Cy-Fair ISD. Yes, CFCA openly supported and defended “DEI,” which can mean a lot of different things in different settings. For me, and others who joined the group, there wasn’t necessarily a specific DEI program or initiative that we promoted, we just defended the idea that DEI had an important role to play in creating inclusive workplaces and classrooms. We saw ourselves as working against those who demonized and weaponized “critical race theory” as some nefarious plot. We believed that the truth about American history, even the ugly parts that include white supremacy, slavery, and segregation, should be taught. We believed that public schools should be inclusive environments where LGBTQ+ students felt safe. We believed that diversity was a strength, not a problem.

The Facebook group grew to over 400 people in 4 weeks, which seemed like a lot. Our first in-person gathering was at Russ Poppe Family Park on Grant Road (an awesome park for you parents with little kids) and we were joined by state representative Jon Rosenthal, who is one of the strongest public education advocates in the Texas House. Yes, he is a Democrat. Yes, I ran for office as a Democrat. Much would be made about all this in the months to come as people attacked our non-partisan group as a “bunch of liberals,” or in the words of one far-right extremist, “groomers.” The truth is that many of the group’s early members were Democrats, but most of us were committed to a non-partisan approach to public education advocacy because we believed that supporting well-funded and inclusive schools shouldn’t be a partisan thing. We wanted to build a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who could unite against the extremists. It goes without saying that our group’s mission was a threat to the extremists who wanted to rally conservatives around a Christian Nationalist agenda.

As CFCA grew and gained credibility in Cy-Fair for the work we were doing, the extremists took notice. We were against book bans, so CFCA started “Books Under Fire” to read and discuss some of the books being challenged for their supposedly “woke” content. We supported teachers, so we had school supply drives and adopted Wilson Elementary School. We even created a scholarship awarded to a CFISD graduate who planned to become an educator. We supported librarians, so we had a district-wide appreciation campaign after their professionalism and integrity was attacked by state politicians who accused them of having “porn” on their shelves. We were vocal at school board meetings, typically speaking every month about issues facing the district. We were organized, driven, and doing the work.

Then, something strange happened at the end of the 2021–22 school year. Bethany Scanlon, the wife of CFISD school board trustee Lucas Scanlon, and Todd LeCompte, also now a CFISD school board trustee, created an LLC called “Texas Civic Alliance” with a “Cy-Fair Civic Alliance” chapter. In short, they stole our group’s name! Bethany Scanlon also founded another group called Conservative CFISD, which according to its website aims to bring a “conservative perspective to Cy-Fair” and only invites conservatives to join. The group’s beliefs, as stated on its website, are a perfect example of Christian Nationalism. Whereas Conservative CFISD only wants to elevate the voices of conservative Christians, Cy-Fair Civic Alliance was always open to individuals regardless of their political or religious worldview. A diverse community like Cy-Fair should unite, across differences, to advocate for the things that benefit and represent all stakeholders. There shouldn’t be a “conservative” or “liberal” Cy-Fair ISD. There should be a Cy-Fair ISD that reflects and serves the community in all its diversity. We don’t believe this is a Republican or Democratic idea. We believe that people from across the political spectrum should want, and do want, a Cy-Fair ISD where everyone is heard, seen, respected, and served. This means that one group of residents cannot impose their political and religious worldview onto the rest of the school district. Yet, that is exactly what people like Bethany Scanlon had in mind. Fortunately, the three new trustees were outnumbered 4–3 so they didn’t have the votes to do any “damage” or enact their agenda, but another school board election was coming in 2023.

Cypress Families for Public Schools

In response to our name being stolen, and in preparation for the upcoming school board election, Cy-Fair Civic Alliance formally rebranded and reconstituted as a 501(c)4 non-profit called Cypress Families for Public Schools. Our Board of Directors includes four educators, one current CFISD employee, one former CFISD employee, five current CFISD parents, one former CFISD school board candidate, and one current CFISD student. We live in the Cy-Fair community, and we are authentically invested in Cy-Fair ISD. Our vision is a Cy-Fair ISD that embraces the future, prioritizes an inclusive and equitable learning environment, and supports a diverse community where every child can thrive. To engage the community, we hosted a school board candidate forum at the Weekley Community Center before the 2023 election. CFPS proudly endorsed the ALL4CFISD candidates, which included incumbent CFISD trustee Julie Hinaman, Frances Ramirez Romero, Tonia Jaeggi, and Leslie Martone. These candidates, which many in the Cy-Fair community rallied behind, represented the type of non-partisan and/or bi-partisan approach to public education advocacy that we strived to embody.

In truth, the ALL4CFISD candidates did not reflect the racial diversity of the Cy-Fair community, and some stakeholders took the position that having diverse candidates was non-negotiable. The result was an endorsement by state representative Jon Rosenthal and Cy-Fair Strong Schools (a local PAC) for Dr. Cleveland Lane and three of the four ALL4CFISD candidates. The way I see it, many good people disagreed in good conscience about which candidates to support. Needless to say, it is preferable for everyone opposed to extremists to be united behind the same candidates and in 2023 that wasn’t the case. The election was close, but the only CFPS endorsed candidate to win was incumbent trustee Julie Hinaman. Three more conservative Republicans backed by highly ideological and partisan PAC groups were victorious: Justin Ray, Todd LeCompte, and Christine Kalmbach. During the 2023 election, I would often say that the non-partisan public education community needed to win otherwise Cy-Fair ISD would be in the news for all the wrong reasons. Now, with a 6–1 supermajority, the conservative Republicans had the votes to push their agenda. Time would tell what they intended to do with their new majority.

The first controversial issue in 2024 was the vote over whether to create a new “chaplain” position in Cy-Fair ISD. The Texas legislature passed SB 763, which forced public school districts to vote on whether to approve the hiring of chaplains to provide counseling and mental health services to students. Many people from across the spectrum, from Christian conservatives to non-religious progressives, were concerned with the possibility that chaplains may promote their religious worldview inappropriately to students. Dozens of speakers attended the school board meeting in February to speak out against the idea, while some (mainly from outside the district) spoke in favor. The only trustee to advocate creating a paid or volunteer chaplain position was Natalie Blasingame, who also testified in favor of the bill in Austin when it was being considered. Controversial figures, such as Rocky Malloy of the National School Chaplain Association, spoke in favor of the policy. Malloy founded Mission Generation, which has, according to its website, “20 years of experience bringing Jesus to classrooms of public schools. The battle ground of the culture war is K-12 schools…” State representative Jon Rosenthal cautioned the school board about passing the proposal without proper guardrails in place, while state representative Tom Oliverson echoed Rosenthal’s comments but defended the bill as good policy. Fortunately, the other conservative trustees, either fearing litigation or privately acknowledging the reality of religious pluralism and separation of church and state, voted against the proposal. Cypress Families for Public Schools organized and spoke out in opposition to chaplains in Cy-Fair ISD.

Then, news of the impending budget cuts came. Many residents were upset with the proposed cuts and specific outrage was expressed in reaction to half of the district’s librarians being re-assigned to other positions. The school board meetings were packed with speakers who expressed outrage at Governor Abbott for causing the fiscal crisis facing school districts across Texas and those who wished to express their gratitude and support for Cy-Fair ISD librarians. Many students, as young as elementary, spoke publicly in defense of their librarians and libraries. Cy-Fair ISD’s superintendent Dr. Doug Killian attempted to explain to the community that Governor Abbott wasn’t to blame, but the truth is that the Texas legislature secured $4 billion in new funding for public schools that Governor Abbott refused to pass because his favored “voucher bill” didn’t have enough votes to be enacted. Essentially, Governor Abbott is holding public school funding hostage to get a “voucher bill” passed that will allow parents to use public tax dollars to help pay for private school tuition. State representative Jon Rosenthal spoke at the board meeting and called for a special session to fully fund Texas public schools. State representative Tom Oliverson, who appeared on stage with Governor Abbott at Cypress Christian School for a pro-voucher event, supports using public tax dollars for private schools. Cypress Families for Public Schools organized to help residents communicate their priorities to the district and advocate for public school funding from state leaders.

Most recently, the Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees voted 6–1 to censor textbooks approved by the State Board of Education and Cy-Fair ISD’s own professional educators. Once again, it was Natalie Blasingame who led the way. She proposed removing entire chapters from science textbooks because they discussed vaccines and climate change. The community learned that the district can simply remove and block access to specific chapters within digital textbooks. It was alarming that a school board trustee would seek to use their position to micromanage instructional materials in such an ideological manner, and shocking that a supermajority of trustees could go along with it so carelessly. The only trustee to vote against the censorship of textbooks was Julie Hinaman. Cypress Families for Public Schools has been organizing to combat this latest example of extremism by networking with First Amendment and free speech organizations, drafting emails to the board of trustees and district leadership, and exploring other formal and legal avenues to reverse the action. The precedent being set is truly frightening. Cypress Families for Public Schools is against book bans and censorship.

Where is Cy-Fair ISD Heading?

It remains to be seen what else the new supermajority of conservative Republicans has planned for Cy-Fair ISD. Will they revise book policies and further purge the libraries of books they disagree with? Will they follow Katy ISD in passing policies that target LGBTQ+ students? Will they follow Carroll ISD in voting to leave the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB)? Far from following in the footsteps of other districts taken over by extremists, the Cy-Fair board of trustees has now proven they can chart their own path by censoring instructional materials. Conroe ISD just followed Cy-Fair’s lead with their own censorship vote. In the end, school board trustees are elected by the local community. As disappointing as the 2023 election was for the bi-partisan coalition of public education advocates, at least Julie Hinaman was re-elected and now serves as a lone voice of reason and compassion. In 2025, the three who started Cy-Fair down this path of extremism will face their own re-elections. If the community comes together to replace Henry, Scanlon, and Blasingame with three candidates who want return to a non-partisan approach to school board governance, then Cy-Fair can quickly turn things around and build on its successes. In the meantime, it looks like Cy-Fair ISD will remain in the news for all the wrong reasons. Cypress Families for Public Schools will be here fighting the good fight and working to engage, inform, and unite Cy-Fair ISD staff, parents, students, and taxpayers. As the strategizing begins for the 2025 school board election, it is crucial that all community stakeholders have a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation. Everyone needs to come together and be united. CFPS intends to play a unifying and bridge-building role in that process. We encourage you to join us in this effort. You can learn more about us at www.cypressfps.org and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.