updated 7:28 PM UTC, Nov 21, 2019

Concerned parents address reading material

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By Chris Edwards
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COLMESNEIL – Several parents were on hand last Tuesday at a meeting of the Colmesneil ISD Board of Trustees to address concerns with reading material from a junior high theatre arts course.

Board President Curtis Pittman said that since a grievance was filed with CISD concerning the class, no one present could speak on the matter. Calls to the district were not returned at press time, nor could the instructor be reached.

Two of the parents present at the meeting, Jason and Coty Squier, have filed a grievance with the district concerning the class and the readings they found objectionable.

In several examples of prose and poetry obtained by the Booster and used in the class, references to sexuality and sexual misconduct are made, and some examples contain obscene language. The writings, which are sourced from a site titled 4N6 Fanatics, were given as homework assignments to the seventh-grade class, according to one parent. The site bills itself as a database of material for “new and exciting in-class materials for drama/acting/speech classes.”

One parent who spoke, David Gardner, asked if there was any way the board could improve the quality of teachers hired in the future and/or retain “outstanding” teachers.

Gardner went on to cite some of the materials from the theatre class. “Not all threats to our kids are physical,” he said. “You have reasonable expectations that your kids should be protected when they walk through these doors,” he added.

Gardner used an example of a piece that was allegedly read by a high school student in front of the class and intended for UIL competition. The piece, a first-person narrative, details a mass shooting inside a school, which ends in the narrator’s suicide.

Coty Squier shared information from the UIL website that gives rules for the types of material used in contests. Materials that insinuate sexual activity or physical violence, as well as material featuring obscene language do not meet UIL standards, she said. High School Principal Walter McAlpin offered to meet with any parents concerned about the material and their children’s ability to compete in UIL events.

Another parent, Julie Craven Phillips who was present spoke to the Booster about her concerns with the class and what she views as problems with district available technology not being monitored.

Phillips posted several of the pieces of writing on a public Facebook post. “I would like to see the technology that our children have access to through the school be monitored; that they take the necessary steps to protect my child the way that I do,” she said.

Phillips added that her son was in the class but was taken out due to objections over the material. “I hate that my son is not in theatre and can’t compete in UIL,” she said.

She said she has contacted CISD administration to discuss key elements and concerns relating to the reading material. In her post, Phillips stated that the instructor told the students to stay within the age-appropriate section of the 4N6 website in selecting material for a poetry assignment, but were later instructed to go to another section when students informed him the poems were not long enough to meet the assignment criteria.

“[The district] needs to take the steps necessary to monitor [the technology] or take it back,” she said.

One faculty member, Heather Mitcham, spoke at the meeting on behalf of colleagues. “We don’t take our professionalism and our credibility so lightly…it is our life,” she said.

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