Bob Stefanowski talks to Lucy Nalpathanchil of WNPR Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski stepped into a culture war Tuesday when he said he wants to “give parents the right to raise their kids.”

Stefanowski released a “parental bill of rights” as part of his campaign, which calls for age-approrpiate sex education, a ban on transgender female athletes competing in girls high school sports, and allowing reasonable recourse to students and staff who do not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Let parents – not the school district, not the state of Connecticut – decide when and how to discuss sensitive sex education issues,” Stefanowski said. 

Stefanowski said he’s not opposed to children learning about LGBTQ or race, but 

“this is more about kitchen table issues being spoken about at the kitchen table,” Stefanowski said in an earlier interview with WNPR. 

“We need to promote diversity. We need to promote differences of choice and be very tolerant of that, but this is about if a parent wants to talk to their kindergartner about issues like that that’s up to them,” he added. 

He said sex education shouldn’t be forced on kids who can “barely tie their shoes.” 

Another bullet point revolves around student athletics. 

Stefanowski said he would work with the legislature to change the laws that allow transgender female athletes to compete in girls high school sports. 

In 2021, a federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit by four cisgender females against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which allows transgender females to compete in girls high school sports. 

“We will first try to work with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to amend their current policy but absent their cooperation, we will work with the state legislature,’’ Stefanowski said. “There are Title 9 protections provided to girls and women, and we are committed to ensuring these protections.”

At an unrelated press conference, Lamont said “I don’t need a solution looking for a problem.” 

Gov. Ned Lamont
Gov. Ned Lamont Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

He said when it comes to transgender young people “get the politicans out of it. I think our leagues and our coaches at the local level –  I believe in local education – they’re going to make the right choices. Keep the politicians out of it.” 

Another bullet point in Stefanowski’s “parental bill of rights” is vaccination. 

We support science-based decision making and we both believe in the efficacy and safety of vaccines, but we don’t believe that parents should be forced by the government to vaccinate or mask their children without any recourse to object,” Stefanowski said. 

At the Capitol press conference, Stefanowski said “Eliminate any mandates for kids to wear masks or mandatory COVID vaccines. It’s an individual choice. … It shouldn’t be the government’s choice. It should be the individual and the parent who makes that choice for their child. Any parent who wants their child to get that vaccine, I’m all for it. But let’s not force others to do it because the government wants us to do it.’’

Last month, Stefanowski attended an event hosted by the Connecticut Residents Against Medical Mandates at the Crystal Ridge Winery in South Glastonbury.

CTRAMM was among the groups which formed in opposition to the state legislature’s recent decision to repeal a long-standing religious exemption for childhood vaccine requirements, a step taken in response to a growing number of families opting out of vaccinations. The change was controversial, however, and prompted thousands of protesters at rallies outside the Capitol.

During an August press conference, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz accused Stefanowski of seeking the support of radical groups.

“We’re here to let the people of Connecticut know that Bob is courting extreme groups that espouse ideas that will endanger our public health and we want to call attention to that,” Bysiewicz said. “Leadership is important and using science to keep people safe and using medical knowledge is important.”

Stefanowski’s “parental bill of rights,” also called for an expansion of school choice, including magnet, charter and trade schools. He also said he supports vouchers for private schools.

And he says some of the state surplus should be used to improve school security. 

When it came to Stefanowski’s overall message, Lamont said, “I don’t need anybody pitting parents against teachers. That’s bad for our kids and bad for our students and bad for our schools.”

Lamont’s campaign added in a statement: “His announcement today is just another page out of the extremist playbook – voters know that if Bob gets elected he’ll stay loyal to his far-right allies who are spending millions of dollars to support him.”