To the Editor:
In March I received the Old Lyme Republican Town Committee’s (RTC) “request for support” letter. I am an unaffiliated voter, and as such I appreciate understanding what the local political parties are offering in terms of policy. At first, the letter seemed innocuous, opening by noting that among the key values and priorities they would support is “maintaining the excellence of the Lyme-Old Lyme Public Schools.” While we all agree that keeping our schools strong is vital for the future of our children, the RTC explicitly noted that they would be “standing up for parents’ rights in the town school system regarding the school’s curricula and student policies.”
It is greatly troubling to me that the Old Lyme RTC has joined in the national narrative being spouted by leaders like Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump and Greg Abbott. In every instance where Republicans have pushed a “parental rights” agenda, what has followed has been book bans, censorship and thought policing. The ill-defined “policy” of letting parents decide what books a school can use, what words teachers can say, and how subjects should be taught, fosters a toxic relationship between educators and parents and encourages the foolish, misguided and sometimes violent clashes we’ve seen playing out at Board of Ed meetings from coast to coast.
Science is science, math is math, literature is literature, and history is history. Let’s leave educating to the educators; it’s a policy that has served our school system well for the last 200 years.
In short, if we want to keep our schools strong, let’s make sure we don’t let them get strong-armed by partisan politicians. I hope that in November we will vote for candidates who understand that restricting information and discouraging freedom of thought undermines one of the primary functions of education: teaching students how to think critically and for themselves.
Editor’s Note: The author is a a member of the Town of Old Lyme’s Ethics Commission.
Liz Farrell says
I think Ms Schmaus would be 100% shocked at what the State of Connecticut Department of Education is telling our educators to teach. Just look up the Health Curriculum. Please ask a high schooler what kind of books are in their library. Saying “math is math” is a dream that existed a while ago. Now we have a system which is called Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community. There is no room for parents. Please read what is being required, read the assignments the kids bring home, please talk to our district teachers before jumping to the conclusion that parental rights leads to unfair interference. Our district is strong because parents are involved. I have heard this message over and over from elementary school onwards, although it is gradually being drowned out by influences who believe parents stifle their children.
Kim Thompson says
I think you’re confusing parents being involved, as in volunteering for activities in the classroom or on the PTO with what is implied in the platform the RTC has put out there. I, as a parent, who volunteers for after-school programs, in the classroom, etc, absolutely do not want to see anyone “standing up for parents’ rights in the town school system regarding the school’s curricula and student policies”. Because I may disagree with what one parent thinks should or should not be taught and they may disagree with me, this puts parents against parents, and parents against teachers and creates an unhealthy environment for everyone. I want teachers and educational professionals who are certified in the areas they teach to decide what is taught, they have the credentials and professional experience to make those decisions.
I’d love to know what you think is so scandalous that is being taught at the schools…specific examples only. Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community…are parents not part of the community??? Thank Goodness for Health Teachers, I think their curriculum is vital, and would never want anyone to infringe on my children’s rights to learn the facts and be able to ask questions at home and school and hear the questions asked by other children because sometimes the best learning happens by listening to other’s questions!
We do our best for our kids at home, as every parent does, but are so thankful that they have a safe space at the schools and can confide in their teachers, while I’d prefer they talk to me, I would never want them feeling like they have nowhere to go if there was something they didn’t feel they could talk to me about.
Liz Farrell says
I just re-read the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Health Curriculum on the State of CT Department of Education website, and could NOT find the offensive material any longer…. my apologies! I should have looked again.
I researched it last Fall when one of my children was starting Health class. It was so explicit that I was almost embarrassed to read it at the time (and I printed it out but can’t seem to find it now). The 9-12 curricula discussed things I can’t even type here. In any case, it’s not there now. I am so incredibly relieved.
You could easily come to two conclusions about the missing offensive material: either I have a loose screw — or rational, reasonable parental (or other influential people’s) involvement and these types of discussions actually work.
And kudos to the health teacher, who, at the time, was perfectly willing to let me exempt my child from the sexual health portion of the class. Of course I didn’t bully or harass the teacher. And she didn’t bully or harass me either.
That is parental rights working right here in Lyme-Old Lyme. I feel it’s important to keep it that way.
Candace Fuchs says
Karen Duhammel (English Department chair LOLHS) presented the English curriculum to the BOE in September.
Find her presentation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKMhtmAd9D8
Bill Fitzgerald says
The “Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community” approach is followed by multiple states. It was developed by ASCD and the CDC; see a high level overview here: https://files.ascd.org/staticfiles/ascd/pdf/siteASCD/publications/wholechild/wscc-a-collaborative-approach.pdf
It explicitly addresses and defines the need for parent involvement.
The way the current school board and school administration freeze out and ignore parent feedback that they find inconvenient is a separate conversation – it would be great for the board and the school administration to create ways for meaningful, consistent, and transparent input from all townspeople, not just the people they agree with.
However, a quick scan of what’s going on nationally and locally (ie, Guilford) shows an undeniable picture of “parents rights” being used to harass teachers and librarians.