Sunday, May 18, 2008

Star Tribune spin ignores legitimate concerns regarding "Welcoming Schools"

Today's Star Tribune editorial, "Educators need help to combat bullying, Antigay behavior is a growing issue in Minneapolis" schools lacks understanding and affirms anti-Christian hatred.

The parents objecting to "Welcoming Schools" support the districts effort to combat bullying, however they strongly object to a curriculum that calls Christians "stupid" and undermines parental authority.

Read the statement read before the Mpls. School Board in February.

Chairperson Lee, Directors and Dr Green:

My name is Arbuc Flomo and my children attend Mpls. Public Schools, three of which are scheduled to pilot the “Welcoming Schools” curriculum this spring. I am representing a highly diverse group of concerned parents tonight, including Muslim, Hispanic, Christian, Liberian, adoptive and others who have children in Mpls Public schools.

We want to begin by saying that we stand with the District and our school in wanting to address the bullying and name calling issues, including the bullying and name calling of GLBT children and their families. However, in doing so we retain the rights as parents to expect our schools not to interfere with our freedom to teach our children our individual beliefs and values, whatever they may be.

We are here tonight to request that the Minneapolis Public Schools cancel its plans to pilot the “Welcoming Schools” curriculum in the entire district.

The “Welcoming Schools” pilot curriculum for K-5th grade is a biased curriculum promoted by a powerful, well-funded, special interest lobbying organization called the Human Rights Campaign and is scheduled to be taught at Parkview, Jefferson and Hale elementary schools. The HRC web sites states “HRC works to secure equal rights for GLBT individuals and families at the federal and state levels by lobbying elected officials, mobilizing grass root supporters, educating Americans, investing strategically to elect fair-minded officials and partnering with other GLBT organizations.”

This curriculum is highly controversial. And although Hale Principal Bob Brancale introduced this curriculum as “anti-bullying” to both parents and staff it is far from that. We have found that approximately two-thirds of the curriculum teaches elementary children about “underrepresented family structures” and “redefining male and female behavior.” It far under represents families of color, and virtually ignores Asian and Immigrant families and also ignores faith and belief differences in families.

In both the first section called “Understanding and Recognizing Family Diversity’, and the second section called “Helping all Children to Thrive: Looking at Gender Roles and Stereotyping” the examples used, books read and projects done are biased toward GLBT families-a fact corroborated by Jesse Teben, the districts Out 4 Good representative who was at Hales informational meeting last Thursday night. It is NOT inclusive to all families. The third section called “Creating a Respectful School by Addressing Name –Calling and Bullying” we have found to be more inclusive.

After reviewing the curriculum this is some of what we know:

1. Teachers are instructed to use a glossary of terms when introducing underrepresented family structures.
The curriculum defines Lesbian “as a women who loves another women in a special way” and Gay as “a person who loves, in a very special way, someone who is the same gender.” Young children may become confused, thinking their parent is gay because he/she loves their best friend, or more concerning, may think they are gay because they love their best friend! We do not agree that the definitions for Gay and Lesbian are sufficient in explaining. To really teach children about Gays and Lesbians, they need to understand homosexual behavior, which then means they need to understand sexual behavior. This is completely inappropriate material for early elementary school children, and these definitions are simply inadequate.

2. “Welcoming Schools” is designed to question the moral authority of parents. After careful review of Welcoming Schools, it is certain that the techniques, lessons and materials used- do indeed - encourage and reward our children to question what they are taught in our highly diverse family environments.

By questioning the moral authority of parents, “Welcoming Schools” deliberately creates conflict between child and teacher, child and parent, and parent and teacher. A school curriculum that creates conflict between child, parent and teacher is fostering an environment that is emotionally harmful and threatening to the child. This is not acceptable.

3. “Opting-out” further questions parental authority and makes children feel ashamed. Chairperson Lee and Directors please know the division that on “opt-out” option will cause children. Children whose parents “opt-out” will be separated from their teacher and class during that time the curriculum is presented. This can cause embarrassment and shame from being called out of the group and children may again question their parent’s decision on why they “opted-out”.

Here are some other concerns:

4. We feel The Minneapolis Public School District is not prepared to handle the controversial nature of “Welcoming Schools”. At an informational meeting last Thursday night at Hale a parent very respectfully stated her concerns and questions about the curriculum When she was finished the administration responded by dismissing her concern.

We believe this incident illustrates that “Welcoming Schools” is so biased that even a good principal could not defend it. The issues that were brought up by this woman were very real and need to be addressed, but when leaders in positions of power are dismissive and disrespectful then how are the goals of the school and of this curriculum being met? If a good principal feels he can do this in front of hundreds of parents, imagine what could happen to a child behind the closed doors of a classroom.

5. All data gathered by teachers is subjective in determining the curriculums effectiveness and outcomes.

6. “Welcoming Schools” will not end bullying as it omits the diversity of families of faith at Hale Elementary. This curriculum is not inclusive of all parents; it ignores Asian families, minimally mentions families of color and overlooks family faith differences.

A Muslim mom from Hale posted this on a Mpls blog for parents…”as a Muslim family we have never pushed our agenda in the school. We have had to deal with people not accepting us and our children have been put into uncomfortable situations but that does not allow us to tell other families what their beliefs should be”.

If we want to teach our kids to not bully or make fun of others because of the language they speak, the color of their skin or because they have two moms or two dads then let’s spend this time teaching them character qualities such as love, respect, honesty, kindness and what it means to have integrity. This teaches behaviors and not beliefs. If we teach a child to be respectful of others then they won’t bully. If we teach our children to be kind then they will not bully.

7. We can defeat bullying by promoting the distinctive qualities we have in common. Most, it not all, parents gathered at the information meeting at Hale agreed that bullying needs to be stopped. In my home we do this by teaching our children personal values on top of general qualities that we all share. We teach our children that everyone is worthy of value, love, respect and tolerance. We believe that if the school worked with parents and children to promote the values we hold in common we could put an end to bullying at Hale and possibly provide an example for the rest of the district.

In Closing:

As a representative of concerned parents in Mpls Public Schools, we are asking you to remove this controversial and damaging curriculum from ALL Minneapolis schools because it promotes a controversial agenda from The Human Rights Campaign, it is biased towards GLBT families, it teaches children to question parental authority, it causes good principals to bully parents and it ignores the diversity of families of faith. If anything, let’s find a curriculum that is more mutually agreeable. We don’t want this to damage or split apart our schools.

Finally, theses are the action items we respectfully ask this board to address:

1) DO NOT support the “Welcoming Schools” curriculum, in any Mpls Public School.
2) Appoint an independent and diverse task force to review alternatives to the issues that need to be resolved including parents on both sides of this issue.
3) Review the District’s own controversial curriculum policy, which is included in the hand out packet. We feel this curriculum violates the District’s own policy.
4) Review the process by which new and pilot curriculums come to the schools. We understand that the Curriculum and Instruction Department was unaware of “Welcoming Schools” as early as this past February. Finally, in the Districts own website with the button on bullying, “Welcoming Schools” is not even mentioned as a district initiative.

We all care for our children and want to do what is best for them. This is why we respectfully present to you our concerns and opposition to the curriculum.

I would like to invite anyone who is here because is this curriculum to please stand together to show the board the level of interest this curriculum has generated.

Thank You.

1 comment:

Jim said...

There's never been anything wrong with the welcoming schools curriculum in full or short form. There's no hidden agenda and it does confront many issues.

It is amazingly ironic that nearly everyone opposed to welcoming schools says they are being discriminated against because of their religious views.

That's rather amusing since if the opposition lived in paradise on earth, only their views would be heard.

We just don't need a theocracy in our classrooms or in our nation.