BREWSTER — Voters will have an array of school committee candidates to choose from at the May 25 town election, including one who wants to reduce the number of school-choice students enrolled in the Nauset School District and one who is opposed to diversity initiatives in schools.
Rheanna Hastings, 38, is running for the Brewster School Committee for a one-year term against Sarah Sherman. Dion Dugan, 63, is competing against Richard Draper and Cathryn Lonsdale for a one-year term on the Nauset Regional School Committee.
The Nauset district includes four towns: Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet, and many Truro and Provincetown students attend the district schools as well.
In speaking with the Independent, both candidates distanced themselves from the United Cape Patriots, run by Brewster resident Adam Lange, whose group hosts rallies featuring speakers such as Dave Kopacz of Ware, president of the Mass. Republican Assembly. At a May 2 Brewster rally, Kopacz said, “There are tyrants and perverts going after your kids now. They are changing your curriculums … Populate your town boards.”
Lange would not confirm Dugan’s or Hastings’s association with United Cape Patriots, saying it’s up to them to reveal any connections. “I would caution Rheanna to be very careful speaking to the liberal media,” Lange added. “The liberal mob is so evil and so full of hate. It’s a scorched earth approach, what they are doing to her online.”
Before the 2020 presidential election, Lange rode around in a military-style vehicle with Trump signs. Since the election, Lange has been leading an energetic campaign to recruit “Cape patriots” to serve on town committees and boards.
“Run for School Committee in any of our Cape Cod Towns!” Lange wrote on Facebook in January. “This is a rare opportunity to have influence over what is being taught in the schools in your district. We share many of the same concerns about sex education and the redefining of our history in our schools.”
United Cape Patriots have held training sessions for recruits and have appointed team leaders for each region of Cape Cod. At one point this spring, Hastings was named as team captain for the Lower Cape.
In a recent newsletter, the Cape Patriots listed events planned in May. One on May 24 at the Nauset School Administration building in Orleans is titled the “Let Our Children Breathe Protest.” It promotes “bodily autonomy, parental choice and medical reform,” according to the newsletter, and appears to be basically a protest of required mask-wearing.
Hastings’s name was recently removed from the United Cape Patriots website and newsletters, said Brewster resident Sky Freyss-Cole.
“My biggest issue is how disingenuous she is,” Freyss-Cole said.
Hastings is from Duluth, Minn.; she moved to Brewster less than a year ago. A mother of four, she told the Independent in January that “tolerance, diversity, curriculum, and mental health” are her main issues.
“I think tolerance goes both ways,” she said. “I’m trying to empower people at the table so it’s a fair process. So, whatever the solution is, there is an option for the marginalized group.”
When asked her own political views, she called herself “nonpartisan” regarding school issues.
But in January the Cape Patriots listed her as the contact person for anyone interested in “demanding an alternative” to the effort by the Nauset Regional Middle School to create a diversity subcommittee and implement Learning for Justice, a program, formerly known as Teaching Tolerance, of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Hastings sent emails out in March as a representative of the United Cape Patriots asking people to become involved with the Brewster Taxpayers Association and with a new group called the Cape Parents Community Coalition. One speaker at an April coalition meeting was Michael King, director of Community Alliances for the Massachusetts Family Institute, which works to “strengthen and preserve marriage between a man and a woman.”
Hastings could not be reached for comment this week.
When Hastings asked to put a campaign sign on Freyss-Cole’s lawn, the candidate presented herself as a nice mom with four children but was not open about the agenda revealed in her posts on the United Cape Patriots website, Freyss-Cole said.
Hastings canceled her appearance at a candidate forum in Brewster and blocked on social media people who tried to get her to explain her views and relations with the United Cape Patriots, Freyss-Cole said. When you’re running for a public office, “people are generally forthcoming. It’s disrespectful to the community,” Freyss-Cole said.
Dugan, who is a former member of both the regional school committee and the Brewster Finance Committee, said he is not a member of the Cape Patriots, though he did vote for Trump, and he did allow Lange to park his camo-colored truck in front of Dugan’s property on Route 6A during the election.
“I know Adam and I like Adam,” Dugan said.
But, Dugan added, his purpose in wanting to be on the school committee is to persuade state lawmakers to increase by $10,000 the per-pupil reimbursement for school-choice students. The current $5,800 per-pupil reimbursement does not cover costs, he said. Nauset Regional High School attracts about one-quarter of its student body from other districts.