Parents weigh in District 86 film choices
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Updated: November 26, 2012 2:20AM
HINSDALE — About 60 people attended the Hinsdale District 86 School Board meeting Monday, many of whom weighed in on the controversial films shown in a Hinsdale South High School course.
“I’m deeply concerned about course content that was not directly approved by the District 86 School Board,” said Peggy Olds, a 34-year resident of the school district.
As officials elected by the citizens, the members of the School Board represent the residents’ moral and ethical views, Olds said.
She objected to the short advance notice parents were given to decide whether they would allow their child to see the films in the course, film as literature.
Olds said parents should be notified of controversial topics and the materials that will be presented at least two weeks in advance.
When subjective material will be presented in the classroom, “the values of the community and the values of the parent must be considered,” Olds said.
But some parents thought eliminating controversial topics from the curriculum would be a form of censorship.
“I’m in support of academic freedom and excellence in our schools,” said Linda Burke, a parent of two Hinsdale Central graduates and an English teacher. “There’s not a serious piece of literature that doesn’t engage in controversial issues and doesn’t espouse controversial ideas. Once you start to censor works of art based on controversial subject matter, where does it stop?”
But Jannine Sullivan and other parents said they were not objecting to the controversial subject matter. They objected to the graphic films, such as “American Beauty” and “Brokeback Mountain,” the teacher chose to illustrate the literary or cinematic elements the course aimed to cover, when thousands of other less offensive movies exist.
“When parents have an objection to a film or book, they say we want to ban books,” Sullivan said.
But teachers are not judged as critically when they choose which material to use or not use in their class.
“Teachers are merely selecting books,” Sullivan said.
After hearing the public comments, the School Board discussed the process the district uses to approve instructional materials. The board approves curriculum and textbooks on an annual basis, but not specifically films.
District 86 Superintendent Nicholas Wahl said before a teacher can show an R-rated film in his or her class, the principal must approve the film and parents must sign a permission slip.
The policy was followed, Wahl said.
Board members Richard Skoda and Dianne Barrett asked that the district review the policy and in the interim suspend showing any R-rated movies.
“Serious mistakes were made and poor judgment was used here. This is unacceptable,” Skoda said.
The majority of the board, however, voted to table the discussion of whether R-rated movies should continue to be shown. They also decided to let the objection a parent filed against the movies in the literature as film class go through the formal curriculum objection process before addressing whether the review process should be changed.