School Board rules graphic films stay
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:07AM
HINSDALE — The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board voted 5-2 Monday to uphold the decision of the superintendent to allow graphic movies in a film class at Hinsdale South High School.
The parent who originally objected to “American Beauty” and “Brokeback Mountain” being shown to juniors and seniors in the film as literature class had appealed Superintendent Nicholas Wahl’s decision earlier this month.
Wahl concluded school officials followed district policy and procedures in getting both principal approval and written parental permission before showing any R-rated movies in the class. Wahl’s decision was based on the findings of Tom Paulsen, who was the interim principal of Hinsdale Central High School three years ago and the principal of Naperville Central High School prior to that. Paulsen was brought in to conduct an objective evaluation of the film controversy.
Board members Richard Skoda and Dianne Barrett voted against the decision because they said Paulsen did not analyze whether the films complied with the district policy that requires all controversial subject matter should be age-appropriate, serve an educational purpose and be presented in a balanced way.
Barrett and Skoda asked the superintendent to reconsider his decision in light of that policy.
“What was going on in these movies was never analyzed,” Skoda said. “It was all procedural.”
Wahl replied that Paulsen “did a thorough review of what he considered pertinent.”
“Part of the review touched on the standards used” for selecting films to be studied in the course, Wahl said.
Skoda questioned whether “American Beauty,” which tells the story of a dysfunctional family in which the father is lusting after one of his daughter’s teenage friends, is age appropriate.
“And what lesson are we trying to teach?” Skoda asked.
“I have to say when I first heard about the movies, my kneejerk reaction was to pull the movies, pull the movies,” Board member Kay Gallo said. “They’re not age appropriate.”
But Gallo changed her mind after watching all the films under discussion, reading the short story on which the “Brokeback Mountain” screenplay was based, and reading Paulsen’s report.
All the students in the film class had to return forms signed by their parents or guardian that gave their child permission to see the R-rated films in the syllabus. If the parent did not want their child to see a particular movie, another film would be substituted.
“We are relying on parents to take responsibility for what their children are being exposed to in (the) classroom,” Gallo said.
As a parent, that’s how she wants it.
“I’m the parent. I get to choose what my children do,” Gallo said.
When her children were younger, she would withhold permission for them to go on certain field trips, which meant her children “had to be out of the norm of kids.”
Sometimes, she said, “you have to be independent, you have to stand up for yourself and you might be the only person who feels that way.”