Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Regulations Governing Local School Boards and School Divisions [8 VAC 20 ‑ 720]
Action Amendments Regarding Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials
Comment Period Ended on 1/15/2014
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12/19/13  4:03 pm
Commenter: Jennifer Robinson, SCPS

Please reject this proposal

First and foremost, I need to identify I wear two hats: parent and English teacher. As a parent, I one hundred percent agree that the parent has the right to censor a child per their moral compass. Do I agree with all the censorship out there? Absolutely not – but that child is their child, and that child will face the consequences of such choices as an adult – for good or ill.

Where I fear this proposal leads us down a slippery slope is the use of current events and the term "Sensitive." The school systems with which I have  worked all have a published reading list, and parents are involved in the selection of textbooks. Thus, parents have – at the get go – the parental right to state they do not wish their child exposed to (enter topic / book here). Students entering AP classes do so with the understanding these are college level classes, and there are certain expectations associated with these classes. Book are selected based on the list of books references on past tests. This is public knowledge and, in my experience, not a huge issue if the parent dialogues with the teacher. HOWEVER, in a time where the standards of learning are leaning much more towards nonfiction reading, and we are challenged to engage the dis-engaged, timely material and "authentic texts", such as the newspaper, can lead us to trouble.  It is easy to see that a student will read Brave New World  and arrange for an alternative assignment. It is not easy to monitor the newspaper articles brought in, shared and dissected in the discussion of that book.

In my tenure as a teacher, I can also say what one person finds sensitive or offensive is not the same across the board. Personally, I was offended when I was asked to read as a student Catcher in the Rye. Even then, it was seen as timeless literature and part of the “classics.” Books such as Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are regular staples of a High School English classroom, yet are also regular staples on the ALA’s most challenged list.

Many people have spoken to the ambiguous "sensitive" wording. Gregory Peck's To Kill a Mockingbird won academy awards, yet I would put forth it is incredibly sensitive.

The spirit of the change is sound – however, the slippery slope it opens will impede teaching in all classes – not just English. And, once again, it sends the message that teachers are not professionals who are highly skilled, but rather further supports the us versus them mentality between parents and teachers. We do not go to the doctor and just dismiss their professional capability – why are we doing this with teachers?

CommentID: 29739