Kansas parent addresses school board with content, curriculum concerns

(The Sentinel) – Kirsten Workman, who withdrew her daughter from high school English class over her concerns its content focused more on Critical Race Theory, gender issues, and political…

(The Sentinel) – Kirsten Workman, who withdrew her daughter from high school English class over her concerns its content focused more on Critical Race Theory, gender issues, and political opinions than teaching students how to write addressed the Lansing Board of Education at its November meeting.

Workman began her 20-minute presentation by criticizing USD 469 administration for previous inattention to her questions, claiming she was “corralled into a curriculum challenge rather than having a conversation about appropriate content in presenting diverse ideas.” She defined the Expository Writing Class her daughter formerly attended as one in which “Factual, objective writing” is taught. She added, “Presenting opinion-based writings as expository is basically indoctrination.”

In her PowerPoint presentation, Workman used these examples:

  • A re-write assignment of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale focusing on one of several themes, including Marxism, Post-Colonial treatment of black people in the U.S. and Gender/Feminism
  • A study of “The Lion King” centering on discrimination of the lead female character

Afterward, Workman said she appreciated the opportunity to speak to the board but was was not able to finish her presentation in the 20 minutes allotted.

“I’m disappointed that I did not finish my presentation, and so I didn’t get to express or elaborate on what I think was the most important part: recommendations that school boards require teachers to write and map their course objectives to state standards. It will prevent teachers from making up whatever they’d like to teach and putting it in the course objectives,” adding, “I’ll just have to go back next month.”

Lansing school board member Amy Cawvey says she supports Workman’s efforts.

“I asked that all of our ELA (English Language Arts) curriculum in our high school department be sent to the board for review and will remind our teachers and administrators that the Parents Bill of Rights (PBOR) is board policy and needs to be followed.”

She cited two provisions in the district’s PBOR pertaining to those attending the meeting, including two parents who spoke in opposition to Workman’s position:

  • the right to attend publicly designated meetings of the local school board and the right to question and address school officials during designated public comment periods or through letters, electronic communications or in-person meetings
  • the right to expect that each teacher and educator of such child will endeavor to present facts without distortion, bias or personal prejudice 

Cawvey went on to question if board policy was followed in this issue.

“When selecting additional materials to supplement curriculum and Kansas state standards, these must be adhered to. In my opinion, from what I have seen at this point, these policies were not followed, and the material did contain bias, propaganda, critical race theory, and some of the text contained extremely crude language, rape, along with profanity. Even the film that was selected had a viewer discretion warning yet there was not any permission slips sent to parents. This film has been shown to have many inaccuracies along with being one-sided and obviously propaganda. I personally am disappointed that with the vast amount of literature that these items were what was selected for our students. We can do better in Lansing.

“I commend Mrs. Workman and her daughter for coming forward, as that is a difficult thing to do in today’s world where it is easy to attack those who stand up for what they believe but much harder to stand up when you feel something is wrong. I appreciate her doing so. I apologize for the lengthy process and also plan to put forth a motion to shorten our current timeframe for curriculum challenge reviews. The board did not feel it would be prudent to change policy in the middle of a challenge but will vote on that when it is resolved. The current time frame is 30 days. I feel 10 business days would be sufficient, but that is the board’s decision as a whole.”

The challenged material will be sent to a review committee, according to board policy, made up of “The building principal, library media specialist, two subject area specialists, two community members, and one student. If the request for review proposes that the material is inappropriate for minors, the student representative may be left off the committee. The superintendent shall be responsible for appointing review committee members, unless otherwise determined by the board on a case-by-case basis.

Cawvey said the Lansing school board was assured the review committee will complete its work in time for the December 12th board meeting at which a decision to remove the material may be made.