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New polling data shows that many Americans no longer trust their educators.

In the midst of an ongoing culture war, conservative parents and lawmakers have instigated a crusade on school teachers in an effort to control what they can and cannot say in classrooms. The recent movement has specifically targeted individuals or supporters of the LGBTQ+ community, also levying restrictions against sex education or the teaching of racial issues.

A January poll from Gallup found that the public's faith in grade-school educators is at an "all-time low," with only 64 percent of American adults stating that they believe those teachers to be "truthful and have ethical standards." In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, 75 percent of adults reported trust in instructors. This year's poll shows the lowest confidence in the education institution since Gallup began surveying in 1973.

The polls also measure along party lines, revealing that while 73 percent of Democratic-aligned adults gave high ethical ratings to educators, only 54 percent of Republican-aligned voters agreed, down from 70 percent of Republicans during the pandemic.

Experts trace the sudden mistrust in teachers to conservative politicians and public figures who have found it beneficial to attack educators. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned on eliminating discussion of race from classrooms, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has passed the colloquially named "Don't Say Gay" bill, which prohibits teachers from addressing LGBTQ+ topics.

Fox News has become a large proponent of targeting instructors, as pundit Tucker Carlson has called for educators who discuss transgender issues to "get hurt." Host Jesse Waters also accused teachers addressing LGBTQ+ issues of wanting to “groom children to exploit them for sexual purposes."

Online, the Twitter account "Libs of Tik Tok" has directed its millions of followers to attack over two hundred educators and school districts since the beginning of this year. Schools have been forced to shut down their accounts to prevent influxes of threatening messages, and some teachers have even lost their jobs or quit due to harassment.

Several states are currently facing teacher shortages, with roughly 5,000 vacant teaching positions currently in the state of Florida. The profession has become increasingly unattractive as low wages stagnate, and education restriction laws drive more instructors to leave the field.

One such teacher is Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr., who was named Kentucky's 2022 teacher of the year. Despite over a decade of teaching, when a small group of parents learned Carver is gay, they began showing up to school board meetings to call him a “groomer," and falsely claim the Gay-Straight Alliance club he supervised to be “some sort of sex cult." One began posting his personal information online.

“The new anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is complicated,” Carver told The Advocate. “It's a dangerous game of policy and culture, and it clearly craves sacrifice.”

Feeling unsafe to return to the classroom, Carver quit his job in June.

“But I’m increasingly thinking, why am I in the classroom?” he said. “Because I think it will change things. I think it will be a force for good. But what is the effect? If I am, every few weeks, having to stop and undergo some sort of investigation over what’s happening in my class, I’m not going to be mentally able to do this work. And then what are my students seeing? A stressed-out, unhappy LGBTQ adult. I don’t think that’s what they need to see.”

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