Citizens can control the curricula taught in our schools. Parents sitting on curriculum-selection committees that choose textbooks can identify objectionable materials and protest before the state or district purchases the text book.
Health curriculum has received a lot of attention lately, but citizens could have protected their children from exposure to objectionable curriculum by participating in the selection of health curriculum to be used in the schools.
The first step is to read the laws in your state. Each state has its own process. Legislators write laws, but they have no obligation to enforce them. Citizens must make sure that laws are properly applied and must lobby for laws that will improve educational opportunities for children.
The National Conference of State Legislatures is an excellent source for legal information. NCSL lists sex education policies by state and identifies the specific piece of legislation that defines each policy. For example, Wisconsin statute 118.019 requires each school board to provide an instructional program in human growth and development in grades K-12. The law requires curriculum that is medically accurate and age-appropriate. Curriculum is required to present abstinence as the sure way to prevent pregnancy and STIs and to identify skills necessary to remain abstinent. This is powerful information. Parents have a right to participate on the curriculum-selection committee and to determine whether curriculum meets these expectations. Citizens have a right to demand that inappropriate curricula be removed.
The State Department of Public Instruction or State Department of Education website will provide the state guidelines for the curriculum selected. If the website message is not clear, the name, phone number, and e-mail address of the specialist who can help is typically provided.
The Wisconsin DPI site indicates that health education will be taught in a cross-curricular manner. This essential information means that parents have to check every subject taught in school for the management of sex education issues. How can you stop or support cross-curricular instruction if you do not know that it exists?
Because Wisconsin DPI website states that “adopting these standards is voluntary, not mandatory,” parents can be confident as they discuss sex-education curricula with the school district.
The citizen does not need to be an expert in curriculum. However, the citizen who has researched abstinence-centered health curricula and has an example of acceptable curriculum to provide to the school district has an advantage. Also, the publishers of the text will send a spokesperson to your school board or curriculum-selection committees and will provide a sample set of curriculum. The purpose is to prove that there are excellent curriculum choices available.
By the time teachers meet to select a curriculum, the district or state may have already sanitized the choices for those teachers. When I sat on those committees, the district was obviously presenting textbooks that share the same theme. The only real choice we teachers had was to decide which publisher provided the most creative resource materials which made teaching the concepts more interesting. Having a well-informed public involved in the process will encourage a broader range of materials for selection.
With a basic understanding of the laws, standards, available curricula, and relevant district regulations, a citizen can write to the school superintendent and ask to be placed on the district curriculum-selection committee. A state with a powerful State Department of Education or a strong State School Board may require applications be submitted to them. A sample letter is available on the Advocates for Academic Freedom blog page.
Keep copies of all communications with a district that prevents you from exercising your rights or responsibilities. Send a copy of those letters to your legislators and any other office holder who may be able to help including your State Department of Education leadership and your state school board association.
Now is the time to become a lobbyist for legislation that will accommodate parental involvement in curriculum development. Each educational concern presented to your legislators or to your school board is another opportunity to advocate for local control of schools.
Parents who are trying to protect their children from outrageous curriculum must begin packing school board meetings with requests to become involved on curriculum-selection committees. Citizens who are unhappy with the direction taken by the American educational system should run for school board, write letters to the editor, and organize citizen informational meetings.
The federal government is trying to render parents, citizens, and school boards irrelevant. If citizens fail to become involved, the federal government will accomplish this goal quite easily.