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Forcing Diversity in the Classroom

April 25, 2002


After Parents Protest Diversity Class, District Moves to Control Their Access

By Laura Adelmann

After parents of Big Lake School District students began protesting the high school's diversity lessons, District officials proposed a policy to control parental access to the schools.

Parents in the District have spoken out against the Diversity Perspectives class textbook that promotes what one parent described as "an extremely liberal agenda." And, parents state, the text includes concepts promoting socialism, homosexuality and the creation of a new Bill of Rights that includes the "right" to an abortion.

After bringing their concerns forward, word spread that the Big Lake School Board is considering a policy which impairs parentıs ability to monitor what and how their children are being taught during school.(See proposed visitation policy.)

The policy gives school principals and/or officials autonomous control over whether or not parents can come into their childıs school or observe a class.

Three days notice to the principal is required to be allowed admittance, but the principal's decision can be revoked "if the visit is not in the best interest of students or employees of the school district." No explanation is given regarding factors which would constitute such a ruling by the principal.

Additionally, the proposed policy restricts video, digital reproduction, photographing and audio recording that occurred early this winter.

Before a meeting in the high school, parent Teri Dickinson video taped student work hanging on the walls of the Diversity Perspectives classroom. (See Diverse Perspectives Course Syllabus) The papers depicted Christopher Columbus, a man of deep faith and convictions, as a rapist and murderer. The projects also called him a pillager and terrorist.

"I just couldn't believe what I saw," Dickinson said. "I wanted to be able to share it with other parents."

Deedee Dart, a Big Lake parent involved in the diversity class issue said the Columbus posters were characterizations through the Indian's eyes, but were not identified as such.

"The children's work was supposed to be from the perspective of the Indians, how they saw Christopher Columbus, but you don't understand that when you see it on the wall," she said, adding, "There was not equal space given for the true perspective, or other perspectives. It was definitely slanted."

Bob Barrett, parent of a Big Lake 9th grader, is so concerned about the class that he read the Diversity Perspectives textbook, "Oppression and Social Justice: Critical Frameworks." (See review of this book and an additional text book used, Generation React: Activism for Beginners)

He says the book propagates a political viewpoint of oppression foisted upon others by white males, beginning with Columbus.

Within the first chapter of the book, parents say anti-military, anti-gun and anti-big business themes are promoted. Additionally, an entire chapter, say parents, is devoted to anti-capitalism. And, the parents note, the book endorses United Nations policies, gay and bisexual agendas, group rights and victimization.

Big Lake parents have shown concern about what their children are exposed to during other classes, as well.

For instance, Big Lake parent Mary Stultz contacted her 9th grade son's Life Skills teacher when she learned a public health nurse would be giving a condom-showing presentation on contraception.

At first, the teacher welcomed her to attend the class.

"The speaker (also) welcomed me in. She didn't have a problem, in fact she likes to have parents in, that way she gets feedback and knows she's teaching things that are age-appropriate and not overstepping her bounds," Stultz said.

But the morning of the presentation, Big Lake High School Principal Darrel Easterly banned her from the school, via the teacher, citing data privacy laws.

Stultz was stunned.

"I was in total shock and spent the morning talking to a lawyer," remembered Stultz. "He said if they had a policy in their school that was one thing, but they couldn't be claiming data privacy to prohibit visitors."

The same situation happened to Ginny Knaeble, mother of five. Her 9th grade son was in the same class and the teacher graciously invited Knaeble, per her request, to listen to the presentation.

But she too was issued a last-minute denial by the principal citing data privacy laws.

Becky Martin, another parent of a Big Lake Schools student denied classroom access challenged the District's data privacy claims as reasons for the denials.

In a letter to Easterly, she stated, "Your legal counsel's interpretation implies that information obtained in a classroom would violate a student's right (under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974). This is most unquestionable not the case."

She stated the law identifies educational records under the rule as records "in the sole possession of instructional, supervisory and administrative personnel."

Martin stated that if the law as interpreted by the District was true, "visitors would never be allowed in any classroom ever." Knaeble said she talked to the Big Lake Superintendent Bob Lageson who assured her being denied access as the situation occurred "should never happen again."

However, in an apparent attempt to make the parent-banning "legal," the Big Lake School Board will soon be voting on the new "Visitors to School District Buildings and Classrooms/Appropriate Communications" policy. (See proposed visitation policy and compare it to the previous policy.) The policy reasonably specifies principals can deny access to people who shout at, use obscene language or force against staff, students or visitors.

Additionally, under the proposal, principals can detain parents and/or enforce their access-denied decisions using criminal trespass laws.

However, principals are also given broad authority to "impose special limitations and restrictions to visitation privileges whenever visitor behavior is deemed to be in violation of reasonable standards."

Because those "reasonable standards" are not defined, parents are concerned.

Stultz said the principal"s could use their access-denying power against parents who speak out.

"If the principal doesnıt like me, he can just say no," said Stultz. "If I'm going to disagree with anything that is said in the school, I'd never be allowed in again."

Big Lake High School Vice Principal Mark Canton said the officials' decision of whether to grant classroom access would depend on "who would be coming in and the purpose for which theyıre coming in."

He added that parents may be denied access if students would be sharing things during class that they "wouldn't feel comfortable sharing with a parent in the classroom."

Canton admitted, though that he "wouldn't know" if these types of uncomfortable discussions would be taking place during the class since saying things they wouldnıt feel comfortable sharing with parents is not part of the planned curriculum.

Canton additionally stated if parents were denied access to the classroom, they could be given a video or tape of the class.

However, because the proposed policy would require advanced permission for taping the classroom, he said the parent may only be able to have access to written materials used in the class.

"We would do everything we can to provide them with the information they need," said Canton.

Stultz has heard similar claims from other District officials, but she remains concerned.

"What it sounds like though is that they don't want any parents involved in the classroom," said Stultz.

"As a parent I have the right to be there. That's all I should need. Otherwise they could be teaching our children white supremacy, who knows. If I'm concerned about what theyıre teaching, I should have that right to go in and listen."

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"Goals 2000, Passed Into Federal Law in 1994"

From Goal 3:

(vi) all students will be knowledgeable about the diverse cultural heritage of this Nation and about the world community.

Goal 8 :

(8) Parental Participation --
(A) By the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.

(B) The objectives for this Goal are that--
(i) every State will develop policies to assist local schools and local educational agencies to establish programs for increasing partnerships that respond to the varying needs of parents and the home, including parents of children who are disadvantaged or bilingual, or parents of children with disabilities;

(ii) every school will actively engage parents and families in a partnership which supports the academic work of children at home and shared educational decisionmaking at school; and

(iii) parents and families will help to ensure that schools are adequately supported and will hold schools and teachers to high standards of accountability.

No Child Left Behind: Signed into federal law in January, 2002:

Title I, section 1114(d) "schools shall...develop a school-parent compact... by which the school and parents will build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the Sates's high standards" (1)..describing "the ways in which each parent will be responsible..."

For information about how the following article reflects a curriculum driven by federal law, see, "The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced."


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From Goal 3 of Goals 2000, passed into federal law in 1994:

(vi) all students will be knowledgeable about the diverse cultural heritage of this Nation and about the world community.

Doesn't that sound benign?

The following article is typical of the way the "federal diversity mandate" is being played out in schools across the country. This form of diversity is at the heart of the so-called "standards reform."

From the Big Lake, MN Course Syllabus:

"Diverse Perspectives is a study of oppression and social justice which completes the Diverse Perspectives Graduation Standard [of the Profile of Learning, Minnesota's "Standards."]

From Goal 8 of Goals 2000:

"parents and families will...hold schools and teachers to high standards of accountability." "excerpt from Goal #8."

Doesn't that sound wonderful?

The following article is about how parents are in reality, being kept out of school's.

As a result of federal mandate, schools are developing contracts for parents to sign, accountability measures that parents must meet, and training for parents in proper parenting -- all in the name of government getting parents more involved in their childrens' education.

From the New Haven, CT "Accountability Plan":

"For example, parents who make sure their children complete homework and attend school will be recognized on a 'parent honor roll' and given discounts at local businesses. However, parents who fail to live up to expectations could be referred to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, charged with neglect, notes the paper."

In other words, what has been passed off to the public and to most lawmakers as more involvement of parents in the schools, is actually nothing more than a means to control and manipulate parents. When parents expect genuine involvement, they are shut out.

What is passed off to the public and most lawmakers as developing an awareness of other cultures in the world, is actually aggressive attacks on our history and our institutions of freedom.


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