Plano ISD Candidate: ‘Drug of Pornography,’ Threatens Schools More than Guns or Fentanyl | Dallas Observer

Education

Plano ISD Candidate: ‘Drug of Pornography’ Threatens Schools More Than Guns or Fentanyl

A popular talking point among conservative officials and voters is the possibility of school libraries possessing pornographic material.
A popular talking point among conservative officials and voters is the possibility of school libraries possessing pornographic material. Jamie Taylor / Unsplash
Days after it was announced that Plano Senior High School student had died from fentanyl poisoning and the day before a student was shot dead at Lamar High School in Arlington, a Plano ISD school board candidate claimed that "the drug of pornography," not fentanyl nor gun violence, represents the greatest danger to school children.

Candidates for Plano’s City Council and the Plano ISD board of trustees appeared at a forum at the East Plano Islamic Center on March 19. In a video from the event, Margaret Turner-Carrigan, Lydia Ortega and Tarrah Lantz, the three candidates for Plano ISD’s Place 4, are seated next to one another.

With each candidate wearing hijab-style head coverings in accordance with Islamic tradition, the trio fielded questions from an audience member, who was heard on the video, but was out of view.

“We’ve seen a lot of gun violence in schools recently,” the audience member began. “So, in Plano ISD, what are the measures you plan to take to ensure the safety of our children?”

Turner-Carrigan answered the question first, stating she would work with law enforcement to find a “workable system” while also looking after the mental health needs of students. It was a pretty vague answer, but she indeed answered the question. Ortega, the second candidate to give a reply, immediately and completely avoided doing so by pulling out what might be the hottest of all current Republican talking points: the GOP war against library books.

“I think the biggest problem we’re having is with drugs in the schools,” Ortega said. “I don’t mean fentanyl drugs, I mean the drug called pornography. That’s an addictive drug that destroys the brain, and I think that it needs to be removed so that we have children that cannot access this reading material, until they’re age-appropriate, so, inshallah, I will work to do that.”


The timing of Ortega’s remarks is noteworthy, if not shocking. They came just four days after it was reported that a student from the Plano ISD, Sienna Vaughn of Plano Senior High School, had died from fentanyl poisoning. The day following the candidate forum, 16-year-old Jashawn Poirier was shot and killed at Lamar High School in Arlington, and the next day a student was shot and wounded at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas.

Those tragedies occurred on the heels of three deaths and seven overdoses in the past several months from fentanyl in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, which sits close to the borders of Plano ISD.

Ortega’s not alone. Not only did her forum remarks garner the loudest applause on the video, but the idea that pornography exists in schools has become a banner cause of the Republican Party. Ortega’s comments also came just days prior to the state legislative hearing for the READER Act, Frisco Republican Rep. Jared Patterson’s push to eliminate books he deems inappropriate from school libraries. Books with LGBTQ themes, or even mentions of prostitutes, such as the classic novel Lonesome Dove, have been targeted by conservatives like Patterson.

Ortega ran unsuccessfully for Plano mayor in 2021, collecting less than 4% of the vote. We reached out to Ortega to see if her answer to the question is different now than it was at the candidate forum, but our text message and email went unanswered.

The idea that school libraries allegedly possess pornography wasn't the only conservative bullet point Ortega addressed, however. We reviewed a video of the entire candidate forum event provided to us by an attendee. When introducing herself, well before the school safety questions was asked, Ortega said, "We will get rid of gender bias, gender mutilation, we will get rid of CRT, we will get rid of indoctrination, we will get rid of people taking their values and their goals and putting them on the backs of our children."

It was the third candidate in the video, Tarrah Lantz, who posted it to YouTube. In the clip, she discusses her experience on the Plano ISD safety committee when she advocated for numerous safety improvements in the 2022 bond package, such as $40 million to build secure barriers in elementary schools and magnetic film to protect the windows. Lantz wasn’t impressed with Ortega’s dismissive take on the danger that fentanyl and gun violence poses to students.

“I’m also concerned about the very real drug issues Plano ISD faces with fentanyl as highlighted by the recent, tragic loss of Sienna Vaughn, a student at Plano Senior High School.” Lantz wrote in a statement provided to the Observer. “My opponent’s attempt to downplay the threats of gun violence and fentanyl are a disservice to our parent and student community. I have an eighth-grade son and can verify our students are not rushing to our school libraries for pornography.”
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Kelly Dearmore is the News Editor for the Observer. His work has appeared in Texas Monthly, Success, Dallas Morning News and Cowboys & Indians, among other outlets. He lives in Carrollton with his wife, kids and angelic mother-in-law.

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