SCSU faculty support Southington teacher ahead of BOE meeting, protest

SOUTHINGTON — Over 60 faculty members of Southern Connecticut State University have voiced support for the Southington High School teacher who distributed a worksheet of diversity terms earlier this month.

Published on Tuesday ahead of tonight’s meeting, the letter is an open condemnation of the school board’s approach to the situation. With a makeup of six Republican and three Democrat members, the letter accuses the board’s decision of being politically motivated.

“After viewing the meeting and reading the handout, we are having a hard time construing this as anything other than a politically motivated attack on free speech,” the letter states.

The issue was addressed at the school board meeting on Sept. 8, in which board members announced an investigation into the incident after denouncing the worksheet as not a part of the approved curriculum.

“Any teaching of controversial issues or topics that do occur, must be done so as part of an approved or adopted curriculum,” Chairwoman Colleen Clark, a Republican, said in a statement.

The worksheet, distributed by a Southington High School teacher whose name has not been released, included terms like “institutional racism,” “white privilege,” “transgender,” and “Latinx” — informing students how best to use these terms in their own writing.

“What, exactly, is wrong with a worksheet that provides simple straightforward characterizations of concepts such as ‘marginalization’ and ‘white privilege’ as a way to help students contextualize literature?” the letter asks.

The statement goes on to read that the classroom should be a place to teach students difficult subjects such as racism in a safe and informative context, not avoid them. It also goes on to reject the notion that the usage of such terms falls under “critical race theory,” a topic of heated discussion in political spheres, as it’s a legal theory beyond the bounds of high school curriculum.

Although the results of the board’s investigation aren’t yet public, the letter expresses fear that any action against the teacher could negatively impact educators across the state.

“Our student educators are increasingly hesitant about going into K-12 education, particularly secondary education, given the perception that everything they say may be carefully monitored and policed ​​by politically motivated watchdog groups,” said SCSU Professor Heidi Lockwood, who distributed the letter.

Protest planned

Despite assertions from educators, some parents in the community remain outspoken about the worksheet claiming that it demeans white students.

“Families for Freedom,” a conservative parent organization, plans to host a rally at 6:30 pm today ahead of the school board meeting to protest the content of the worksheet.

The SCSU letter warns the board that they should not let the objections from a small minority of parents and students dictate what’s being taught in schools, as it distracts teachers from their work and endangers the integrity of the curriculum.

“To permit parents — or students — to object to what they perceive as ‘divisive’ texts is to descend down the slippery slope of allowing a relatively small but vocal group of parents and students to circumscribe and dictate the nature of public education.”

The school board next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 pm this evening at the Southington Municipal Center at 200 N. Main St. It is not known if the board plans on making a statement to address its findings, or the ongoing controversy.

The full two-page letter from SCSU can be read here.

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