School Board member defends against criticism over welcoming Proud Boys’ support

A new Broward School Board member is being denounced by civil-rights groups, LGBTQ leaders and two of her fellow board members after saying she welcomes support from all kinds of groups, even the far-right Proud Boys.

Brenda Fam, who was elected in November to a seat in the Weston and Davie area, posted the comment on Facebook on Thursday morning. She was responding to criticism over her speaking about sex trafficking at a Saturday rally on A1A in Fort Lauderdale that featured anti-LGBTQ rhetoric by some participants and an appearance by uniformed members of the Proud Boys, which several civil-rights groups have identified as an extremist hate group.


“If going to a rally entitled ‘Protect the Children’; carrying a sign that states ‘Grooming Leads to Sex Trafficking’ is offensive, then so be it,” Fam wrote on Facebook.

“If you support my cause, to protect the children you are welcomed to stand next to me,” she wrote. “Doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, black, white, Black Lives Matter, or the Proud Boys. The children don’t care who is rescuing them; they just want to be rescued.”


The Anti-Defamation League identifies the Proud Boys as “a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda. They are primarily misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration.” The Southern Poverty Law Center also identifies the Proud Boys as a hate group. Five members were charged with sedition at the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021, according to reports.

“ADL Florida was profoundly disturbed to learn that Broward County School Board Member Brenda Fam spoke at a rally in her public capacity organized by organizations engaging in anti-LGBTQ+ extremism,” according to a statement from the ADL.

The statement said Fam “failed to condemn the bigotry espoused by the organizers and attendees,” including the Proud Boys.

At least two of Fam’s fellow School Board members said they were shocked and alarmed by Fam’s participation in the rally and her Facebook comments.

“This statement chills me to my soul,” Board member Nora Rupert said in a text. “Our students, families, employees and volunteers deserve a safe place physically, mentally and socially.

“This world is a tough place for all students right now and we do not need this. Our community does NOT need this vitriol coming from the Broward County School Board. Let’s lead with kindness.”

In a YouTube video posted by Ty Powell, Broward County School Board member Brenda Fam attends a Protect The Children event on Saturday, December 3 near Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Board member Sarah Leonardi said she, too, was troubled by Fam’s actions.

“Elected leaders must speak out and fight against all forms of hatred including homophobia and antisemitism,” she said. “As a School Board member, I feel a deep responsibility to our students and community to make it known that hate will not be tolerated here in Broward County.”


The five other board members either couldn’t be reached or declined to comment.

Organizers insist the rally wasn’t an anti-LGBTQ event and even included some openly gay participants. But a promotional flyer featured an image of parents holding up a black umbrella to shield children from a rainbow flag, the symbol of gay pride. One participant could be heard on video saying he was concerned when he saw no Father’s Day displays at Target in June but plenty of rainbow merchandise commemorating Pride month.

In an interview Thursday, Fam said she’s not endorsing the beliefs of the Proud Boys or other groups who attended but she supports finding common ground.

“If they support helping children, then I want them,” she said. “I’m not here to shut people down. I’m here to help others.”

In a YouTube video posted by Ty Powell, members of the Proud Boys attend an event, called "Protect The Children," on Saturday near Fort Lauderdale beach.

Fam ran on a socially conservative platform that included support for a new Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay,” which restricts discussions of LGBTQ issues in early grades. She also supports removing books that are not “age-appropriate” from school libraries including ones that discuss gay or transgender issues.

Saturday’s protest was sponsored by two right-wing parent groups, Florida Fathers for Freedom and the Miami chapter of Moms for Liberty, as well as a group called “Gays Against Groomers.” Several members who attended from that group identified themselves as gay but said they opposed teaching about sex or LGBTQ issues to young children. The groups also oppose gender reassignment efforts for transgender children.


“Brenda Fam showed up to speak out against the sexualization, radicalization and mutilation of children. That’s what she’s concerned about,” said Elon Gerberg, president of Florida Fathers for Freedom. “It’s not her fault that the Proud Boys showed up.”

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Gerberg said the Proud Boys tend to show up when a left-wing anti-fascist group announces it will attend. Antifa members held a counterprotest across the street, leading to frequent shouting matches between the two sides, according to videos and social media posts.

There were also more well-known LGBTQ supporters protesting, including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and State Sen. Shevrin Jones, who are both openly gay. Both criticized Fam’s participation.

Trantalis debated with rally supporters over their use of the term “groomer,” which has historically referred to pedophilia but has been used in recent years by some conservatives to identify anyone who supports teaching children about LGBTQ issues. The mayor said the rally supporters are instilling fear by repeating a longtime false trope that being gay is connected to pedophilia.

“Shame on that School Board member for aligning herself with anything that in any way suggests that minority groups in our community are at fault for hurting kids,” he said. “To suggest that our children are under siege by pedophiles is simply part of their hidden agenda to denigrate us.”

Jones said he was part of a counterprotest that included LGBTQ students. He said he, too, was disappointed by Fam’s actions.


“If she represents all groups, it would have been good to see her walk over to talk with HER STUDENTS who were less than 100 steps from her, but she didn’t do that,” he said in a text. “She sided with a group of individuals who have shown us time and time again that they don’t support the LGBTQ or Black community. I echo Maya Angelou’s quote, ‘When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.’”

Correction: An earlier version of this news article misstated the name of “Gays Against Groomers,” a group that attended a Saturday rally in Fort Lauderdale.