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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1/14/14  8:43 pm
Commenter: Althea, Teacher

Do we really have so little faith in our teachers and parents? Reject this proposal!

How does this board establish what is considered unacceptable or inappropriate?  What one person deems acceptable is completely different than what another person may consider acceptable, so who gets to choose? Do they take into account that one person’s controversy is another person’s life?  How are teachers supposed to word that in a letter home to parents without offending parents? I feel like we're turning all "1984"-ish  here! (Which, by the way, is a controversial book that I read in my 10th grade English class! Oh, and my mom's a teacher who made the choice that I was mature enough to handle it at that time!!)  

Do the members of this board really think that parents can't parent or make decisions anymore?  Really?? How insulting to today’s parents!! If teachers give parents a list of literature on our syllabus at the beginning of the year, then it's up to the parent to read the story or the review online and make a choice on whether or not THEY deem the story acceptable for THEIR child. What ever happened to allowing parents actually do the parenting?  I'm pretty sure that's what my parents did, and  I turned out just fine.  I think that MOST parents are responsible enough to take a look at the info they're given at the beginning of the school year and make an educated choice regarding what’s best for their child.  

If this passes, and this proposal goes into effect, will teachers be provided with what “terms” are deemed unacceptable or inappropriate?  If this becomes the case, do you think that teachers have the time to go through not only the books they teach to give every example of a cuss word or sensitive topic, but also all of the short stories in our textbooks, poems we read, nonfiction articles and current events in the news, and our own class libraries that students have access to? This would add up to a thousand different items to make parents aware of if that were the case. In the future, will social studies teachers not be permitted to teach about war through texts because it’s controversial?  Will science teachers not be able to teach animal dissection  through texts?  Will civics teachers not be able to teach politics through texts?  Will librarians in school and public libraries have to follow this law?  Where does it end?

As an English teacher, I view controversy not as something to be avoided or shushed, but as a potential for a lesson on how to deal with life-like situations.  Controversial text is what allows students to form their own opinions and share them appropriately.  This is what you want to do away with?  What happened to us preparing our students for the real world?  Do these parents who support this proposal realize that their children can see way worse things on TV, in movies, in video games and online? (I’m sure there are some parents out there who are still delusional and think that their kids don’t know how to get around parental controls, but they’re just naïve and should open their eyes. Your kid knows more than you do about the technology you have in your house.)

In the past,  I've had parents contact me asking for alternative assignments because they weren't comfortable with the content of a story we were reading or writing assignment we were doing.  Guess what?  I don’t have a problem with that!  This part of the proposal isn’t really the problem at all.  In fact, I'd rather have parents who actually care, have good ethics and morals, and want to be involved in their child's education. Believe it or not, most teachers already have a plan in place for situations like that. This is not the part of the proposal that teachers have a problem with.

To conclude, we are professionals, who are highly trained for our jobs; I think you should trust us do them.  Do not pass the proposal.  Trust parents to have some responsibility and accountability by taking a vested interest in their child’s school career.  Give parents the opportunity to read the content or reviews online themselves and make a decision based on their own opinions.  If they choose to opt their child out, I promise, we’ll be fine with giving an alternate assignment.  Just don’t ask us to do the parenting for them. 

CommentID: 30523