Brighton School Board candidate Melaney Bernhardt is unfit to hold any office from David Cay Johnston

Brighton School Board candidate Melaney Bernhardt is unfit to hold any office from David Cay Johnston

[Melaney Bernhardt of Brighton holds two signs, Freedom Over Fear and Honk For Freedom, joining a group of people on Massachusetts Avenue in Buffalo protesting against COVID health regulation mandates on February 12, 2022. The group met in the parking lot of a former Gander Mountain on Young Street, Tonawanda, to rally and then caravan to Pat Sole Park in Buffalo near the Peace Bridge to protest the COVID mandates. Part of the rally was in support of the truckers in Canada who shut down the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The group headed first to Niagara Square before heading to Pat Sole Park and honked as they went by Buffalo City Hall and Buffalo Police and Fire Headquarters. TINA MACINTYRE-YEE/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE]

By David Cay Johnston

We have a very troubling development in the Brighton Central Schools board election on Tuesday, May 17th. One candidate, Melaney Bernhardt, is hiding her real agenda, which would be destructive to the extraordinarily excellent schools our town has supported for many decades.

Photo: David Kramer, 5/17/22

Voters reading her official election statement, distributed by our school district, would have no idea of the radical education agenda she associated with through the Florida organization Moms for Liberty (MFL). Bernhardt evidently is secretary of the local MFL chapter.

Banning books MFL dislikes is part of an MFL theme of promoting a narrow, white, faux Christian ideology of “liberty” for some while whitewashing America’s history.

Melaney Bernhardt speaking at the 10/12/21 BCSD Board of Education Meeting

What should trouble us is not the extreme reactionary views Bernhardt associates herself with, and to which she is entitled, but her deceptive effort to slip her extremism past voters with her anodyne official ballot statement.

I would tell you Bernhardt’s explanation for her deceptive conduct except that she didn’t respond to two voicemail messages. If she calls back, I will update this post.

MFL, with help from the local Republican Party, is also trying to elect a candidate in the nonpartisan Irondequoit school board elections, the D&C reported on Sunday.

(See “Monroe County school board elections hinge again on COVID, racism,Justin Murphy, 5/15/22)

My assessment: Bernhardt is unfit to hold any office.

My concern: we are entering an era of dishonest efforts to infiltrate school boards by people whose agenda they dare not openly share with voters, at least in Brighton.



The Big Cheat (December 2021) with Brighton’s Pulitzer Prize winning author David Cay Johnston

David Cay Johnston’s tireless pursuit of the facts: a conversation with Allison Bondi

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


  1. JP

    I’m not into politics and parties bc ALL of it is dishonest but you’re a moron for writing “ My concern: we are entering an era of dishonest efforts to infiltrate school boards by people whose agenda they dare not openly share with voters, at least in Brighton.” Obviously your head has been buried in the sand like an ostrich for decades bc this era of which you mention, came into existence well before you were born and exists in every political arena and every apPointed or so called “elected” position at every level in this county, country, state and nation and every nation globally. You are obviously asleep to the truth of what’s really going on not to mention a judgemental person. As my mom use to say, if you have nothing nice to say about someone or anything, shut the hell up. If you think you can do a better job out there, I dare you to run for an elected position someplace and try making a real difference out there instead of being an arm chair opinionated sheep who hides behind judgemental words and who lacks courage to really put himself out there. Wake the flock up!


      Thanks for responding. Just to be clear, I didn’t write the piece. It was an editorial submitted by David Cay Johnston (a Pulitzer Prize winning author). Maybe he should run for office.

      • JP

        Ok, so you did not write the piece BUT you did choose to post it! So as they say, guilty by association. Everyone is entitled, or so it use to be in this country, to free speech and be a free person. We are all individuals w a great variety of interest. Wait til you soon find out how nefarious all the people you’ve elected at any level of office, from small to the top dog, are. How corrupt they are. I believe the average person in this country and the world are good people with good intentions. From what I see, all these BOE’s and all offices have to date have had agendas and are corrupt. The average mom is not one of those Altho I’m sure it happens.
        It is not Melaney (her correct name) who struck a nerve but the narrow minded, one sided (talk abt having an agenda) of the person who wrote the article that is.

      • JP

        And for the record: all prizes and awards are all fixed and a bunch of bull……. so the title u give him and continue to make note of, means beans to me and most people who are informed with the truth.

    • Jeff Wigal

      It’s fascinating that you’re pulling Johnston’s quote about “dishonest efforts to infiltrate school boards by people whose agenda they dare not openly share with voters” without refuting it at all. Melaney had every opportunity at the recent Meet the Candidates night to share why you want to run for school board, and yet didn’t say a word about her substantial involvement with Moms for Liberty. Kind of a big omission, unless you’d rather not publicize your involvement with a group who “is dedicated to the survival of America by unifying, educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”


        Thanks for responding. I wish I had gone to the Meet the Candidates night. Johnston’s piece is getting a lot of feedback. Whether you agree or disagree with her views, Melaney seems to have struck a nerve.

      • Jp

        She blantanly had MFL shirt on which anyone could’ve asked questions about at that mtg.
        I think the picture posted is how all Americans should be acting, standing up for their rights!!! Which then means for everyone else’s as well!

        What exactly is wrong with these signs????

        Freedom Over Fear and Honk For Freedom,


          You make a good point about the MFL shirt. I would have liked to have gone to that meeting. To my discredit, I only learned about her when reading Justin Murphy’s article in the Sunday D & C.

        • Andrew Zibuck

          She did not wear that shirt at Meet the Candidates night. That photo was from last Fall.

    • Andrew Zibuck

      Sometimes the truth is not nice. You can make your own judgments, this is just a report of, you know, facts and stuff.

      “Hides behind judgmental words?” I don’t know even know where to start with that.

      “Opinionated sheep?” That’s an oxymoron. Nice try.

      “Lacks courage” … writes the person going by “JP”, while the authors of the original commentary and this post used their full, real names.

      Deeply unserious.

    • David Cay Johnston

      JP, my comment on entering an era was aimed at Brighton, not America. On a national level this sort of stealth infiltration of school boards activity has been going on for years, has been well documented, and I have written about it.


        Your piece has been very popular. 683 views in 6 hours and much feedback on the site and social media. People definitely have strong opinions on the election.

  2. William Pruitt

    Thank you for publishing this, David.

  3. Julia

    What a pathetic attempt at a hit piece. A mom who supports freedom and parental rights? Sounds good to me. Thank you for publishing this so I know who to vote for.

    • David Cay Johnston

      I think the material at Moms for Librerty makes it clear that they believe in liberty and freedom only for people who share their views. it also seems clear that they support teaching a dishonest history of America, based on their website and reports by solid journalists using verifiable sources.

      Just because someone says they believe in something doesn’t make it true.

      And accurately reporting on someone is not a hit piece, either, especially since I defended her right to the view she holds, but is hiding from Brighton voters.

      An essential element of liberty is defending the rights of people you can’t stand. And you’ll notice that I wrote that the candidate has every right to her views and I’ll defend her right to those views, but her hiding those views is what makes her fit to hold office. Of course deceptive campaigning may be fine with you, a view you’re entitled to hold.


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