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"Moms For Liberty" Wants DeSantis' Book Bans In More States; Court Docs: Man Who Drove Off Cliff With Family In Car Says He Was Pulling Over To Check Tires, Wife Disagrees; "Surviving Uvalde: Inside A School Shooting" Airs Sunday At 8PM ET/PT. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 19, 2023 - 14:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Might I suggest instead of anal sex, perhaps we could go back to teaching cursive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This book is not appropriate, and it is in your schools.

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moms for Liberty is a parent activist group. It began in Florida in 2021 to protest public schools being closed for COVID and mask mandates.

The group became a frequent and spicy presence at school board meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about more than masks for the record.

REEVE: But now there are more than 250 Moms for Liberty chapters nationwide, the group says. And it has gained major conservative allies and morphed into something else, a campaign against supposed indoctrination of children on race and sexuality.

DARCY SCHOENING, CHAPTER CHAIR, MOMS FOR LIBERTY, EL PASO COUNTY, COLORADO: I have the right to say, I don't want my kids to learn this. I don't agree with this movement, and that's my right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So books should fall into that category as well.

REEVE: We wanted to understand what's driving these moms on a deeper level than some viral videos. So we met with the Moms for Liberty chapter in El Paso County, Colorado.

For conservatives, they won majorities on these three school boards in 2021.

Leader Darcy Schoening let us watch a meeting where they talked about how to pressure those boards into making the policies they want.

SCHOENING: What school districts are most of you guys in? REEVE: What Moms for Liberty has become most famous for is claiming school libraries contain books with pornographic content and for trying to get some books removed.

Some of those books listed do talk about sex. But according to the Supreme Court's definition of obscenity, they're not porn.

(on-camera): I've read a lot of criticism of your group. People say that this is kind of like a moral panic, that people have an irrational fear of what's going on.

SCHOENING: We're not looking to ban books. We're not looking to burn books. We just need to get back to a system where parents know what their kids are learning, and for the most part, it's educational and not political.

REEVE: One of the books on your list is Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five." I mean, it's considered one of the classics of modern literature.

SCHOENING: Right. I read that in high school. Yes.

REEVE: Well, why would -- would you want that removed from the library?

SCHOENING: No, we don't -- again, age appropriate.

REEVE: It's on list.

SCHOENING: What might not be appropriate for a six-year-old is appropriate for a 15-year-old.

REEVE: Is someone assigning of first grader at the "Slaughterhouse- Five"?

SCHOENING: No. But again, it's the right of the parents to know that it's there, that their children have access to something that they may not have access to at home.

REEVE (voice-over): One of the big issues right now is pronouns. In March, Colorado's District 11 School Board considered a proposal to prevent teachers from asking kids their pronouns, sparking protests.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teachers can no longer ask kids. They're pronouns. That's right. No more grooming kids with pronouns in D11.

REEVE: The school board has tabled the proposal.

(on-camera): Why is asking a child their pronouns indoctrination.

SCHOENING: If you ask my children who are seven and eight, what are your pronouns? They don't even know what that is.

So when you ask that, you're planting the seed in their minds that they maybe should identify as another gender or that identifying as another gender is hip or cool. Hey, my teacher's asking me, so maybe this is what I should do.

REEVE: But I certainly never felt that way about my teachers. Like I didn't learn I was heterosexual from my health teacher. It was from like, watching '90s movies with Brad Pitt in it.

SCHOENING: Yes, yes. Well, and -- but -- and I think that's how most of us are.

REEVE (voice-over): We wanted to hear what some of the more liberal parents had to say. Some of them set in on the meeting and one passed me this note, calling it a hate group. The next day we met with those parents.

(on-camera): For the record, have any of your kids ever come home and said, I am feeling peer pressured to be gay or trans?


REEVE (voice-over): Naomi Lopez is a speech pathologist and works in a District 11 school.

NAOMI LOPEZ, SPEECH PATHOLOGIST: First of all, we're not going around saying, OK, you know, I want you to think about it. What gender are you?

REEVE (on-camera): Yes.

LOPEZ: Like that's not happening, period.

REEVE: They say it's happening.

LOPEZ: It's not. My personal beliefs, my personal viewpoint on the world does not come into the classroom. We are professionals with degrees in pedagogy.

REEVE (voice-over): And she's also the mom of a transgender student.

LOPEZ: So -- I'm sorry, can you ask me again because I'm getting pissed off.

REEVE (on-camera): What -- you want to talk about that first? Why does it make you emotional to talk about this stuff?

LOPEZ: So I get emotional when other people who don't have children who are transgender or queer place an assumption on it for the sake of persecution, based on their own belief.

SCHOENING: When you're putting all this curriculum everywhere and you're telling kids, hey, come -- you could come talk to me behind your parents' back, I got your back.

I mean, there's a clear move to bring more of that into our schools, and it's just not the school's place.

REEVE: So, what I feel like you're strongly implying, and I would like to get your take on, because I don't want to attribute something that you don't think.


But to me it sounds like you're saying there's some kind of high-level coordinated effort to make more children trans and gay.


REEVE: Well, who is directing that?

SCHOENING: Teachers unions and our president and a lot of funding sources. And teachers' unions are also heavily backing the curriculum that we're bringing into schools.

REEVE: Why would they want more kids to be gay and trans?

SCHOENING: Because it breaks down the family unit, which breaks down traditional conservative values. It breaks down a lot of things in this country. It changes the way that people think. It changes the way that people handle politics.

REEVE (voice-over): Of course, there's no evidence of a coordinated plot to make kids trans.

(on-camera): When I hear those thoughts about like some sort of concerted effort to make people gay, does it sound like a conspiracy theory to you?

SCHOENING: It's not a conspiracy theory that the state, whether you're talking about Colorado or the federal government, is taking a stronger and stronger hand in public education in raising our kids.

So do I think that for some reason people want everyone to be gay? That's a mischaracterization of what I think.

I think that people will use -- you know, the people that want to erode away at parental rights, the left, the teachers' unions, they'll use LGBTQ or whatever may be the case at the time. Those are just tools to erode away at parental rights.

REEVE (voice-over): The last D11 meeting of the school year was mostly about student awards and performances. The board seemed to anticipate the few Moms for Liberty members in the crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As we reflect over the last year, removing rogue woke clubs, teachers, woke teachers and woke counselors from D11 is a must.

REEVE: And a couple of students push back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you remove teacher's ability to ask for pronouns, you'll remove the ability for safe spaces to exist, taking away the safety of your students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to recognize our students and the support staff that are supporting our students out there. LOPEZ: My child thinks it's ludicrous that it's such a big deal because to them it's just normal. To their friends, they don't care how my child identifies. They love them for who they are.

REEVE: Elle Reeve, CNN, Colorado Springs, Colorado.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Thanks to Elle for the story.

The man accused of intentionally driving his Tesla off a cliff with his family inside, says he was just pulling over to check his tire pressure. We have details coming from new court documents straight ahead.

And a car breaching the Vatican gates in the middle of the night. That story, next.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Now to some of the other headlines we're watching this hour.

Beloved musical icon, Jimmy Buffett, is in the hospital for an undisclosed medical reason. He was set to perform this week in Charleston, South Carolina, was forced to cancel his show.

In a message to fans, he described his ailment in a way only Jimmy Buffett by saying, "Growing old is not for sissies, I promise you."

A dramatic rescue. A Douglas County, Nebraska, Sheriff's Office in Omaha is looking for these brave individuals. They rushed in to help deputies lift off a car off a motorcyclist who got trapped after a crash. They were able to get the car up off the ground just enough to pull the person out. That's amazing.

Finally, a break-in at the Vatican. This video was shot late last night. It's a car driving through St. Peter's Square after ramming through one of the outer gates at Vatican City. The Vatican says the driver was taken into custody and is now receiving psychiatric treatment.

SANCHEZ: A California man accused of driving his wife and two young kids off a cliff on purpose told police he pulled off the road to check the tire pressure. Those details from court records obtained by the "San Francisco Chronical."

His wife told first responders he took the Tesla nearly 300 feet over the cliff on purpose. "The Chronical" cited a search warrant affidavit for the details. Fortunately, everyone survived the impact.

Dharmesh Patel was charged in January with three counts of attempted murder.

Let's bring in CNN's Camile Bernal, joining us with the latest.

Camila, bring us up to speed with what you're learning about this case.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Boris. These court documents show that Dharmesh Patel told investigators that as he was driving to his brother's house, he stopped three different times to put air in his tire. He says the sensor still showed low tire pressure.

He says the car started feeling different. He pulled off to a dirt path and checked his tires again. He said that shortly thereafter, he drove a bit and that's when he fell down the cliff.

As you mentioned, in these court documents, his wife shares a very different story. These documents obtained by the "San Francisco Chronicle" show that his wife said multiple times that she believes he had done this on purpose.

She even asked investigators and told them that her husband needed a psych evaluation.

This was a miraculous, really effort by investigators and bystanders that were there. They were able to pull the people out of the car. It was Patel, his wife and two children. They all survived.

But he is now facing three counts of attempted murder.

The documents also show that he told investigators -- Patel told investigators he was not under the influence, not taking any medication.


And then investigators asked him if he was depressed. According to the court documents, he said not really. He said he felt down, but it was because at times things were just bad in the world. He pointed to war and drugs.

He was then asked if he was suicidal. His answer to that was, you know, not like a plan, not usually, and then just pointed to bad times in the world.

This is a sort of he said/she accepted situation, but prosecutors are believing his wife. And his next court appearance is on June 12th -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: We know you'll watch the next court appearance. Incredible they all survived, just looking at the unreal images of that crash.

Camila Bernal, thank you for that.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Next week marks the one-year since the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. When we come back, what the victims' families are saying about the investigation and how the children who survived the shooting are doing.



KEILAR: It has been nearly a year since one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. A gunman killing 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

And it took law enforcement 77 minutes to confront the killer as children inside dialed 911 begging for help.

In the painful years since that day, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has sought answers for closure and for accountability.

He told CNN's Shimon Prokupecz that he's met nothing but obstacles.


MAYOR DON MCLAUGHLIN (R-UVALDE, TX): Most of the information we get, I'm sad to say, I'm glad it's coming out from people like yourself or another agency. We got more from that than we did anything.


MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. It's ridiculous, isn't it? It's pretty sad. Pretty sad.

Part of me wants to say are we going to uncover something you don't want us to see? Are we going to uncover some radio transmissions that you didn't want us to hear? Is our investigator going to uncover that? I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as we know, he is the only one in the room. But now supposedly kids in there, too.

MCLAUGHLIN: If we can find mistakes that we made, perhaps we can keep it from happening in some other community.


PROKUPECZ: Do you think that you will ever see what you want done, what you think needs to be done to protect your kids who are still living in the community?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that we'll make sure of it.


KEILAR: That was a clip from this week's episode of "THE WHOLE STORY" with Anderson Cooper.

And with us now is CNN senior crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz. He and his team won a Peabody Award for their extensive coverage of the story. And, Shimon, you also spoke with two 10-year-old survivors who lost

their friends that day.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. Jayden and A.J. lost friends. A.J. was shot in the leg. Jayden was not hurt. But certainly is going through a really rough time in life. And the psychological and emotional scars very visible when you talk to him.

They were both inside the classroom. Both hiding, both faking their death so that they could survive.

Take a listen to what they told me about their lives today.


PROKUPECZ: Do you ever think about your friends from class that day?


PROKUPECZ: What do you think about?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I think that I miss them.

PROKUPECZ: How about you, Jayden?


AZENETH RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER OF JAYDEN GONZALES: I mean, there is a lot of differences in between him since that day. Like certain things trigger him.

This lady looked at him with the evil eyes and he had an anxiety attack and he was like, Mom, it reminded me back to the way the gunman was looking at me with his evil eyes.




PROKUPECZ: You're on the headphones a lot.

J. GONZALES: Absolutely.


J. GONZALES: So it will help me so -- so if I hear something bad, I can just put my headphones on so I won't have to hear it.


PROKUPECZ: So, Brianna, you can see there Jayden talk about that. He still thinks about what happened almost on a daily basis. Anything could trigger that moment when they were inside that classroom with the gunman.

And so he wears the headphones because of the noises. Noises that he hears sometimes that remind him of the gunshots, the loud bangs from the A.R.-15 that the gunman was using to kill his friends and his teachers.

And A.J. there, who was sitting next to him, he was shot in the leg. He changed completely. He is now disabled. He used to play football. He says he can't run anymore. He can't do the things that he is used to doing as a child.

And just 10 and 11 years old. And they already cannot do the many things that you would expect kids to be able to do.


And the other thing they talked about is just missing their friends. So many of their friends that were killed that day, missing their teachers. It is still really an emotional difficult time.

And then for the parents still trying to get answers for what happened that day.

During the filming of this, some of the parents, the moms, came to us asking to see video of their kids, like Jayden, A.J., being rescued from the classroom. All captured on body camera footage.

And we sat there with them as they watched this video for the first time with their kids coming out alive from the classroom. It was quite a moment, a remarkable hour that we put together with the family members and some of the kids.

KEILAR: Yes. And, Shimon, this is such important work that you have done here.

I just have to say, I've watched you over the course of the year as you have become invested in finding answers for these families. And I've seen the pain in how you are just trying to cover it.

And not to make you the story, I think the point is that you aren't the story. And yet even just the pain of covering it, which is eclipsed by the pain that the families feel.

But just the proximity to trying to claw the answers out of the situation. And the enormity of what the families are feeling. You can't even imagine it.

But you have this view to it having been with them so far of the way.

PROKUPECZ: And they know that I have seen things.

I got a call today from a parent who said I want to see some video too because they know that I have seen everything and they want to see everything because they are trying to just get some information about exactly what happened to their kids.

It is a role I've been forced to play that I never thought that I would have to play. Certainly, not as a journalist.

It has been difficult but important work. And, no, I'm not the story but, of course, it has been very painful because I have had to be there during some of the most painful moments for these family members.

And for my team, the year has been very difficult. But nothing compares to what these families have had to deal with.

In part, the pain is because they don't get the answers. They don't have the accountability. We have a year later, and quite honestly, nothing in this community has changed. Nothing, Brianna, has changed.

KEILAR: Yes, it's unacceptable.

Shimon, thank you so much. We'll be sure to tune in.

This is an all-new episode of "The Whole Story" with Anderson Cooper, one whole story, one whole hour. It will be airing Sunday, tomorrow night next, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only on CNN.

We'll be right back.