Does The Erie School District (Illinois) Need A Stronger Anti-Bullying Approach?

UPDATE:  Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 10:30 a.m.

My original blog yesterday on the way bullying is being handled in Erie, Illinois, is definitely touching people on both sides of this issue.

I contacted K. Bradley Cox, the superintendent of the Erie School District, and here is his response to Monday night’s vote and the policy in place at Erie Elementary School:

“On Monday night, the Erie Board voted 2-5 to uphold the Materials Selection Committee’s recommendation to use GLSEN instructional materials and Parr’s Family Book as instructional materials in Erie’s Elementary School guidance program. Since the motion did not pass, these instructional materials will not be used in the future.

However, this Board action deals only with specific instructional materials, not the curriculum itself. (Curriculum is what is being taught, and Instruction is how it is being taught.)
Erie Elementary will continue to teach diversity, tolerance, and anti-bullying. These topics are crucial in the social-emtional development of children, and they will remain a part of our K-12 character education program.
I have included the Bullying policy from our Elementary School handbook below.

Bullying

Students, parents/guardians, and Erie Elementary School staff members need to work together to prevent bullying.

Illinois law requires a school district to notify the parent or guardian of a child who engages in aggressive behavior,

including bullying (105 ILCS 5/10-20.14). Bullying can be pushing, shoving, hitting, and spitting, as well as name

calling, picking on, making fun of, laughing at, and excluding someone. Bullying causes pain and stress to victims and

is never justified or excusable as “kids being kids”, “just teasing”, or any other rationalization. The victim is never

responsible for being a target of bullying.

At Erie Elementary we:

1. Value student differences and treat others with respect.

2. Not become involved in bullying incidents or be a bully.

3. Be aware of the school’s policies and support system with regard to bullying.

4. Report honestly and immediately ALL incidents of bullying to a faculty member.

5. Be alert in places around the school where there is less adult supervision such as bathrooms, corridors, and

recess.

6. Support students who have been or are subjected to bullying.

7. Talk to teachers, counselors, and parents about concerns and issues regarding bullying.

8. Work with other students and faculty to help the school deal with bullying effectively.

9. Encourage teachers to discuss bullying issues in the classroom.

10. Provide a good role model for younger students and support them if bullying occurs.

11. Participate fully and contribute to assemblies dealing with bullying.”

MY ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
With that being said and to be fair, I’m changing the title from “The Erie School District (Illinois) Needs To Address Bullying” to “Does The Erie School District (Illinois) Need A Stronger Anti-Bullying Approach?” to be fair since it has a policy on bullying.  Additionally, I’m softening the wording in this line, “However, others like the aforementioned Indiana school and a local Whiteside County, Illinois, school seem to be closing their eyes or turning their backs on the kids without more including more anti-bullying material” to “seem to be closing their eyes or turning their backs on the kids without more including more anti-bullying material.”

I will stand by the fact that bullying is a problem and that you can NEVER have too much material to stop bullying.

I also want to make something perfectly clear:  I have NO problem with kids praying in school or on school grounds.  That should be permitted FOR THE STUDENTS THAT WANT TO PARTICIPATE.

Additionally, I think every high school in this country from Mississippi to West Virginia to California to Illinois should have Gay-Straight Alliances.

Anthony

ORIGINAL BLOG POST:  Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 12:29 p.m.

Gay.  Black.  Overweight.  Asian.  New to the area.  Unpopular.  Short.  Unpretty.  Those are just some of the reasons that kids are bullied at school, at home, and online.  This is a subject that touches me deeply and I hope you continue reading and help me in this fight to make life easier for our children, our future generations.

It’s proven that one in five students are the victims of bullying and it’s most prevalent in middle school.

Two weeks ago, 15-year-old Tori Swoape of Bloomington, Indiana, died after asphyxiating herself.  Her friends say she was verbally and physically bullied, but school Principal Jeffry Henderson says, “We have talked to students and teachers and we have scoured social-media sites. We could find no indication bullying was a factor in this.”

13-year old Rachel Ehmke killed herself after her parents say a group of girls at her Kasson-Mantorville middle school in Minnesota consistently called Rachel names, spread rumors about her, and defaced her books and locker.

And, in April, Jack Reese, a gay 17-year-old from Utah took his own life after allegedly being subjected to repeated anti-gay bullying at school.

Are there more teen suicides these days caused by bullying?  It’s possible.  It’s very likely that we’re hearing more about these sad and unfortunate incidents because they should not be happening!  More and more schools across the country are taking a pro-active stance to ensure the safety of our kids when they’re away from home.

However, others like the aforementioned Indiana school and a local Whiteside County, Illinois, school seem to be closing their eyes or turning their backs on the kids without more including more anti-bullying material.

Last night, the Erie School Board voted 5-2 to ban inclusive, educational, and research-based resources and materials that would make all of its schools, elementary, middle, and high, a safer place for students.

This includes “Ready, Set, Respect”, a nationally-recognized anti-bullying curriculum that is used to respond to student harassment, name-calling, and biased language in schools; the book, “The Family Book” by Todd Parr, which helps children understand that families come in all shapes and sizes and that family is important to children; and GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network), the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.

A recent online petition states that this all started last month after a school counselor responded to the student harassment he saw at school.  He proposed using nationally-recognized anti-bullying curriculum and the children’s book on family diversity and the materials went through the district’s formal review process and were recommended for use by a committee made of parents and educators.

It also states that after a small group of people held a prayer vigil outside of a school board meeting to protest of the LGBT-inclusive materials, the superintendent unilaterally banned the materials, and any resource or activity endorsed by GLSEN.

Honestly, I’m very saddened by this decision of the Erie School Board and its superintendent K. Bradley Cox.  I’m even more shocked at this outcome because the Erie School District has been dealing with a hazing incident and charges allegedly committed by athletes at Erie High School.

How can you possibly think that an anti-bullying program is not needed in your district?  Whether or not the hazing incident is credible, that’s enough of a reason to have open dialogue and incorporate these resources for students so that they feel safe when they’re under your supervision.

Look at these beautiful faces.

That’s 17-year-old Tyler Long of Georgia, and 11-year-old Ty Smalley from Oklahoma.  They are two youngsters that committed suicide and are featured in “Bully”, a documentary that’s currently playing in theaters across the country.  It focuses on the problem of school bullying in those two states, along with Texas, Mississippi, and Sioux City, Iowa, the fourth largest school district in that state, in 2009 and 2010.

Schools are not alone in turning a blind eye to bullying.

Heather Wilson, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico, is opposed to the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide LGBT students with civil rights protections against bullying “as those that currently apply to students based on race and gender.”  In an April debate, Wilson said, “that particular act is so broad it would actually punish children and say that it’s prohibited to express an opinion with respect to homosexuality in the schools. I just think that’s wrong and it’s a violation of the First Amendment.”

People, please talk to your school districts.  The people that don’t think bullying is a problem are very vocal.  We need to raise our voices and concerns, too, especially in Erie, Illinois.

Anthony

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60 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kristi on May 23, 2012 at 7:07 am

    The school board did not vote to ban anti bullying. The only thing they voted against was glsen’s Ready, Set, Respect and the Family Book from being taught in the elementary school. I was at the board meeting and that is the truth. The truth is being lost by jumping to the conclusion that Erie schools are against anti bullying. This is just not true.

    Reply

    • Kristi,

      If you’re going to state your facts, identify yourself please.

      Both “Ready, Set, Respect” and the Family Book are used to promote anti-bullying in schools and you admit that the Board rejected them. Bullying starts in elementary school and gets worse in middle school. Those are facts.

      Why wait until the kids are already in high school and are already traumatized?

      That is true.

      Anthony

      Reply

    • Posted by Charish on May 23, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      People I am sure feel this way because the appropriate steps are not being taken to target these issues as well as to eliminate them and for that reason alone it makes the school look guilty at being against anti bullying!

      Reply

    • Posted by Randall on June 8, 2012 at 8:04 am

      And you think banning the gay family book will stop gay families?? Is this a school district or a circus? You can only postpone the inevitable….. blacks, women, civil rights….. Dud you study about these groups and civil rights? Looks like, “no.”

      Reply

    • Posted by Anne on June 11, 2012 at 7:55 am

      How come after ten years now this book is all of a sudden not going to be used because someone had nothing better to do then to say that because a child has two moms and dads it is a gay situation. Children can have two mom and dads for instance a biological mom and dad an adoptive mom and dad. People really need to get they’re heads out of they’re *sses and devote they’re time and effort into the real issue here which is bullying.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Aaron Sweeney on May 23, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Apparently, the truth is not important to you. You write your blog based on lies and twisting everything to makes this sound like something it isn’t. If you are interested in the truth i will be more than willing to tell you what really happen, but i don’t you do.

    Reply

    • Aaron,

      Please identify yourself and state your facts here. You’ve already called me misinformed and that the blog is based on lies.

      What are the lies and what are the truths, as you see them?

      Anthony

      Reply

    • I reached out to Aaron Sweeney via Facebook and here is his response to what I said here after his initial comment.

      Aaron Sweeney:

      First of all, I don’t blame you completely. I realize this is a blog and on blogs people can say and do what they want and that is fine. However, the information that you received is at the very least missing some major truths.

      First of all, the school board banned GLSEN not based on GLSEN’s material on anti-bullying, but based on GLSEN’s material on tolerance and diversity. The community and board members both believe that GLSEN runs the risk of teaching sexual themed material that the parents feel should be taught at home. I am sure you are well aware that people have different views on homosexuality and that being the fact, parents and board members both felt that homosexuality should be taught at home.

      Secondly, the school counselor had told me that the name calling going on basically handful students calling each other gay. I would agree that this is wrong. The counselor went on to say that there were not any students or parents of students in the elementary who considered themselves to be gay or complained about the name calling of gay. The principle, teachers, and counselor both caught student name calling and told the parents about it right way. I think this was right too. This being said a harassment of students is strong words considering what I was told was going on.

      Thirdly, the statement made, “Erie is closing their eyes to school bullying,” could not be further from the truth. The superintendent stated that the units of diversity and tolerance as well as bullying remain on the agenda of topics taught in guidance. He basically asked that GLSEN not be used. He also stated that there were a lot of other materials that they could use to pull their information from. The information given about a lot more material that can be used was the same statement given to me by the school’s counselor.

      Fourthly, This all started two months ago in March not last month. I realize that this may not be a huge deal, but the facts still need to be corrected.

      Fifthly, the statement, “were recommended for use by a committee made of parents and educators.” This is not completely true either. The review committee was made up of one high school senior, community members who were not parents of any current Erie School student.

      Sixthly, the quote, “However, after a small group of people held a prayer vigil outside of a school board meeting to protest of the LGBT-inclusive materials” is almost completely false. First of all, the small group was like 30 people and it was done before the meeting not outside of the meeting. The meeting was not going on during the time of the prayer circle. Secondly, the prayer was a prayer for guidance, not a prayer of protest of anything. Thirdly, vig•il [vij-uhl] noun –“1. wakefulness maintained for any reason during the normal hours for sleeping. 2. a watch or a period of watchful attention maintained at night or at other times: The nurse kept her vigil at the bedside of the dying man. 3. a period of wakefulness from inability to sleep. 4. Ecclesiastical a devotional watching, or keeping awake, during the customary hours of sleep. Sometimes, vigils. a nocturnal devotional exercise or service, especially on the eve before a church festival. the eve, or day and night, before a church festival, especially an eve that is a fast.” By the way 6:00pm is not a normal sleeping time.”

      Finally, the school is not turning a blinded eye on bullying just not using GLSEN. There are other materials that they can use that will still be effective in preventing school bullying. The school board members are still putting the children first, by not using material that parents are not comfortable with, but attacking bullying at the same time. GLSEN is not the only good material that can be used against bullying, tolerance and diversity.

      I have tried keep to the facts and what happen, and tried not to just insert my opinion on the situation. I am Aaron Sweeney and I am local church minister. If you have any more questions please ask.

      **********************************************************
      As I personally replied back to Aaron, “I always want to treat people with the same respect that I expect. As we know, in life, that isn’t a reality to some.

      I want to be fair to everyone. It doesn’t matter if we have the same views or not. We can all state our views in an adult way.

      Dialogue is always good.”

      Reply

      • Posted by fyi on May 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

        Aaron’s response that the committee did not include parents in the community is false. I had a family member on the committee with children in both the elementary and high school. The proper protocols were followed. The GLSEN material passed unanimously while the use of The Family Book was passed by majority vote.

      • Thank you for adding more to the story.

        Anthony

      • Posted by Amanda on May 23, 2012 at 12:40 pm

        Also, while the committee did pass the materials presented (Ready, Set, Respect and The Family Book) they stated that more communication to parents beforehand was to be provided in order to give those parents the option to opt out of the GLSEN plans and be given alternative materials upon request for subsequent school years. The Ready, Set, Respect program was only presented over the course of a week during the guidance lessons. Most of the lessons had already been presented (I believe there was just one day left for some of the levels) once the material had started being questioned and put up for review. I believe the meeting was on a Thursday (please correct me if I am wrong) and the last lesson was presented that Friday.

  3. Posted by lorina on May 23, 2012 at 8:23 am

    you are absolutely right Anthony,my daughter went to school all her life here in Erie and was bullied at the age of 4 in preschool and it continued all through school! She hated school and everyone in it! luckily she graduated and has moved on to new friends,in another town.
    Unfortunately those that voted this down are the very bullies,of the town.Makes me sick!!!

    Reply

    • Lorina,

      I’m sorry to hear about what your daughter went through in school there.

      Apparently, two people, Kristi and Aaron, are telling me that my story is inaccurate. I’m calling the school board now to see what they say.

      Thank you for responding.

      Anthony

      Reply

  4. Posted by thinkabout it on May 23, 2012 at 8:35 am

    This is what happens when churches get involved in schools. I believe the information should be taught as it was (age level considered) and the parents should be given a option to OPT out.

    Reply

  5. Posted by sheltered on May 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

    From what I understand about this matter the “majority” do not have a problem with this material being presesnted, but their is a “minority” that does not want their children subjected to certain topics. Bottom line, children are subjected to a lot more than what parents realize and if you truly think your child does not already know about some of these issues, whether they admit it or not, you are naive. So I guess the choice is do you want your children to be left in the dark or educated, because unless you lock them in your house and never let them get on the internet or watch television, they are subjected to issues that you may not agree with. A parent always has the option to not alllow their child to be included, but then your child would end up being the “outcast”. Whether we want to admit it or not, there are a lot of issues/topics in the world today that we may not want our chidren exposed to, but like it or not…… they are out there!!

    Reply

    • Sheltered,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to the blog.

      I understand that there will always be people that object to something. It’s called change. I’m glad they have the right to object and it’s great if it opens a dialogue to the issue at hand.

      My problem is that these resources need to be there. They are not being forced on anyone. Just because there’s a book in the library, you’re not forced to read it.

      As a parent, I agree with you that kids know more that we parents want to admit.

      Thank you again and take care,

      Anthony

      Reply

  6. Posted by Amanda on May 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I, too, was at the school board meeting. I am all for GLSEN and Ready, Set, Respect and LGBT inclusive material implemented in an anti-bullying program. How can you really consider it a good program if it is not including acceptance and tolerance of all? I do not feel it is important to state that those opposed held prayer outside. That almost makes it seem like we are judging them for their beliefs. I prayed privately before the meeting as well. Obviously for different reasons, but that does not need to be stated. Parents are allowed to question and raise concern regarding their children’s educations. They should, however, not be allowed to dictate curriculum based on their personal beliefs. The schools need to be objective and inclusive of all walks of life. THAT is the issue. Also, it did kind of imply that Erie has chosen to have NO anti-bullying programs in elementary. That isn’t true. We very much still do, just an incomplete program as it no longer addresses GLTB families or individuals. Also, we are no longer allowed to use the best material that is most sited and referenced by all of the leading national education organizations and networks, which is what I also don’t agree with. For a school with a motto, “Where the children come first,” it seems like we are not putting ALL children first by now having to settle for less than the best in leading curriculum materials. Even the school board admitted that while there are other sources of anti-bullying materials, this was the best. Through this whole process, I have been dedicated to presenting the facts without getting caught up in personal emotions and beliefs. I do not feel that my BELIEFS are any more important or valid than yours. I am not trying to take anything away from anybody. I am just asking for that same respect. GLTB inclusive materials should never be banned from a district because that does not meet the needs of all. However, parents are allowed to request alternative materials be presented to their children on an individual basis if needed. THAT is what should have happened on Monday.

    Reply

    • Amanda,

      Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and for respond to shed more light on the subject.

      It was not my intent to make those in the prayer group look like the bad guys. They have every right to pray. I credited that to the petition that stated that prompted a change in the thought process.

      I have contacted the superintendent and I’m awaiting his response to clarify for me what the school’s anti-bullying policy is and I will definitely share that. Again, I’m not saying that Erie doesn’t fight bullying, I’m saying there is always a need for more anti-bullying programs and dialogue everywhere — not just in schools, and definitely, not just in Erie.

      I respect your opinions and I’m glad you responded.

      Anthony

      Reply

  7. Posted by Aaron Sweeney on May 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

    “Racheal’s Challenge” is one such anti-bullying program that Erie School’s already uses a lot of too.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Aaron Sweeney on May 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Fifthly, the statement, “were recommended for use by a committee made of parents and educators.” This is not completely true either. The review committee was made up of one high school senior, community members who were not parents of any current Erie School student.- This statement is true. The committee was not made up of just parents and teachers. Their was a high school senior in there as well a member of the community who was a parent of an Erie Student. Their is nothing false about that information. The idea of a high school senior being on the committee was a concern brought up in the board meeting last month that, in which certain people were not there. I never said that this was wrong, just telling the truth.

    Reply

    • Posted by Amanda on May 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      The committee was made up of a diverse group of people, as all voting committees should be. If it was made up of all people from one particular or similar group, a fair vote would not have been reached. I feel it is important for a student’s perspective since they usually see the bullying first hand. He or she may have provided some insight that other members were not able to. It doesn’t really seem that it matter who was on the committee or what they decided, seeing how their recommendations were overturned anyway.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Shawn on May 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Bradley Cox. Lol.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Thoughtful Questions on May 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Great conversations being had here! I do have some questions based on the comments of the Superintendent.
    1. The districts material review committee provided him their recommendation. Why did he not agree with it and offer his alternative? Why even have a committee then?
    2. The Family Book by Todd Parr has been used in the elementary school for over four years now. Why is it being banned? What specifically is innappropriate about it and why now?
    3. Sounds to me like three lessons from Ready, Set, Respect were being used in the school. What was wrong with those 3 lessons that would warrant them being banned?
    4. GLSEN is a national organization that provides well researched, age-appropriate resources for educators. What would be the specific reason to ban any and all resources from this organization from the school district? That seems counter-productive and counter-intuitive to being proactive (and serious) on bullying.
    These are just questions that seem obvious to me and warrant further discussion by the school district.

    Reply

    • This is exactly what needs to come out of this! Respectful, adult, open-minded dialogue and conversation!

      Thank you to my Facebook friends that are commenting and to the people that just happen to come across the blog and have invested interest in the subject.

      Anthony

      Reply

  11. Posted by Adding my thoughts to the mix on May 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Truth is religion and homosexuality has always been controversial issues in public schools, especially smaller ones such as Erie…this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. My understanding of the outrage you are seeing from the vast majority of parents in this school district is because the material that references homosexuality was presented to their children without any form of notification at the very least, or even an opt out option. It is also my understanding that the biggest outrage is coming from parents of students at the elementary level.

    Look, I’m 100% in favor of all public schools having some form of anti-bullying program in place, but referencing any homosexual material to children at the elementary level is simply unnecessary. However, if the anti-bullying program incorporate material that covers homosexuality at a higher grade level such has middle school and above, I’m in favor of that and think it should covered then. That’s my opinion. The opinion of someone who has a child in the Erie School District and who also has nieces and nephews in the school district ranging from High School to kindergarten. Oh, and it’s the opinion of someone who has a close friend that is gay. In fact, he was in my wife and I’s wedding a few years ago.

    Reply

    • Mix,

      Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and to comment. I appreciate everyone’s comments.

      Yes, the word “gay” seems to get some people riled up and vocal.

      Your views are thought out and I commend you on that. I agree and disagree with your second comment.

      I agree that anything “sexual” pertaining to being gay should not be discussed in elementary school! Period!

      However, educating kids that Cindy or Jacob may not have a mom and a dad at home, but only a mother or a father, or two dads, or two mothers, is different. They should know that.

      We have a daughter that will be 11-years-old this summer. Most of her friends have a mom and dad at home and one of her friends has two moms. I think it’s important that kids in school know that there are differences. They also need to know that family could interracial, too.

      Those are my views and I know we’re not too far apart on the main issues. Thank you again for responding.

      Anthony

      Reply

  12. Posted by Teri on May 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    As a parent of 3 Erie Elementary aged children this topic is very important to me. I opposed the GLSEN program however DO NOT oppose teaching our kids to be kind to others no matter what. I opposed the program because I do not feel the topics of homosexuality, sexual inclusiveness or sexual awareness need to be taught in any way at an elementary school level. Many of those I have had conversations with feel the same way. We are NOT against anti-bullying programs. In fact, Erie Elementary needs to be teaching our kids about bullying just as much as any other school in this country and I feel it can be done effectively without introducing our young children to topics concerning sexuality.

    Reply

    • Teri,

      I appreciate you reading the blog and commenting.

      As I always say to people, whether we are friends, Facebook friends, or people that happen to come across my blog, we don’t always have to agree. We can voice our opinions in an adult way and have a great, open dialogue and still disagree.

      Since I’m not sure if you read some of the other comments and replies, I’ll share this one I wrote earlier to someone:

      “I agree that anything “sexual” pertaining to being gay should not be discussed in elementary school! Period!

      However, educating kids that Cindy or Jacob may not have a mom and a dad at home, but only a mother or a father, or two dads, or two mothers, is different. They should know that.

      We have a daughter that will be 11-years-old this summer. Most of her friends have a mom and dad at home and one of her friends has two moms. I think it’s important that kids in school know that there are differences. They also need to know that family could interracial, too.

      Those are my views and I know we’re not too far apart on the main issues. Thank you again for responding.”

      Teri, thank you for sharing your opinion.

      Anthony

      Reply

  13. Posted by Holly on May 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I was also at the School Board meeting, and your original story was accurate. The superintendent recommended keeping the curriculum but using different materials- which is basically saying “don’t use the curriculum.” He stated he was supporting the committee’s decision, but he was actually not. The Todd Parr book is written for children and identifies different kinds of families in cartoon characters. “Some families look like each other, some families do not…. some families have stepchildren.. some families have two mommies and two daddies….” That’s it. And that’s accurate!!!! Banning this book is ridiculous!

    The school counselor was asked to respond to bullying that was (and is) taking place in the elementary school— and, specifically, name calling that uses anti-gay slurs. The GLSEN curriculum he adopted touches on those issues- and is approved by many of the major national education associations (including NAEYC and the National Association of Elementary Principals). I am an educator myself, and this curriculum is considered the BEST for dealing with these issues.

    This decision was discrimination in it’s worst form…. Discrimination is God’s name (which, if I am not mistaken- is NOT the message of God) It was also educational decisions being taken out of the hands of the educators and given to the loudest voices in the crowd. It is horrible.

    Reply

    • Holly,

      Thank you very much for shedding more like and well thought out response.

      The point I tried to make in the blog is that there can never be enough resources in school to educate our kids and to keep them safe. And, it sure would make the world a better place if those educated children taught their parents about compassion and open-mindedness.

      As I always say, we don’t have to agree. But, we have to listen and communicate.

      Take care,
      Anthony

      Reply

  14. Posted by M on May 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Here it is in simplest form-to ban this book and materials from Glsen
    is unfair to the parents and kids who want/ need to listen to this information. It was handled in an age appropriate way, no mention of anythinfrg sexual. Kids need to
    know that there are all different families and that is simply ok. There are two sides to this topic, but because one side was louder and pushed harder,this book/ materials are being taken away from the rest of us. This is unfair and wrong!

    Reply

    • M,

      I agree with you. Just because it’s there, you don’t have to read it.

      There are movies I don’t watch and music I don’t buy, but it should be there for others that do.

      Thank you for responding.

      Anthony

      Reply

  15. Posted by George on May 23, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Why doesn’t everyone be truthful? The reason everyone is up in arms is because those that don’t agree with homosexuality don’t want Glsen in the school district and those that do are for it….it has nothing to do with bullying…Erie has plenty of anti-bullying practices in place, and those who keep saying it’s unfair and wrong, why is it unfair and wrong? That parents want to have the choice to talk to their children about private subjects at home? That some parents still want to be involved in their children’s lives and not expect a school to raise them and instill personal values in them? As long as bullying is not tolerated we have succeeded and for the matter of this being the best curriculum out there – that is a matter of opinion…I may think I have the best car too but that’s an opinion and as far as I’m concerned we could have a lousy curriculum but as long as we still have our awesome educators presenting it that’s what makes the program succeed! And yes, I have raised four children through the Erie School District and am proud of who they are because of the values WE have instilled in them and have sat down and talked about….that’s a parents job!

    Reply

    • George,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond and share your views.

      Anthony

      Reply

    • Posted by Adding my thoughts to the mix on May 24, 2012 at 8:22 am

      Well said, George.

      I also find it funny that the minority in favor of covering homosexual material at such young ages are the ones saying that parents not in favor of it “don’t have the right to dictate curriculum based on their beliefs.” To that, I say “likewise!”

      Reply

  16. Mix,

    Simply put, do you like country music or pop music? Action movies or romantic comedies? Chocolate or vanilla ice cream?

    No one should dictate in this matter, the majority of the minority! It doesn’t matter if we agree or disagree on whether these materials are good or bad, they should be there for people that want to use them.

    I would not choose vanilla ice cream over chocolate, but I have no right to keep people that want vanilla from getting to buy it.

    And, please open your mind, if you’re talking about GLSEN. Go beyond the first letters, that “S” stands for straight. It’s not an agenda, it’s educational material.

    Anthony

    Reply

  17. Posted by Adding my thoughts to the mix on May 24, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Those are completely unrealistic comparison to homosexual matters! It’s not as cut and dry as that and you know it!

    I personally have no issues with GLSEN being used in the Erie schools outside of the elementary grade levels. However, the reason the material was rejected was because it was presented to young children without consent or notification to the parents. Parents were pissed they have the right to be. Also, I must have missed where it was said that GLSEN was an agenda.

    And yes, I have a problem with scholastic educators presenting material that talks about “two moms or two dads” to elementary children. It opens up those educators and parents up to too many questions from those kids. Simply solution here would be to go with the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple Stupid). Explain to the children that they need to be accepting of all people whether they have different religious backgrounds, race, or home backgrounds. No reason to go into specifics.

    I understand that there are going to be things that come up on the playground that kids will ask their parents about before the parents are ready to talk to their kids about, but those ideas don’t need to be put into their heads by the educators.

    Reply

  18. Mix,

    I agree with the accepting part, but disagree with the opening up too many questions to tell a kid that another may have two mommies or two daddies.

    In a perfect world, a kid that hears something on the playground would ask their parents, but as a parent myself, I know that many kids think they know it all and won’t ask.

    We’ve both stated our views and nothing else needs to be said on the matter.

    Anthony

    Reply

  19. Posted by Amanda on May 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

    When you actually sit and take the vote from Monday literally, both sides win and both sides lose. The MATERIAL and CONTENT of the lessons were voted to remain the same under Mr. Cox’s recommendations. It was only the SOURCE that was rejected. So, for those parents that have the issue with GLSEN because of the inclusive homosexuality acceptance or because children are taught that some families may consist of two mommies or two daddies, I am sorry to say, there was nothing in the vote that happened that prevented those topics from still being taught in lessons provided from a source outside of GLSEN. I am not saying that is what will happen or what should happen, I am just saying that is was COULD happen without breaking any rules or going against the decision from Monday. A vote did take place, and unfortunately, while I may not agree with it, there is no point in me throwing a fit to overturn it. That would just create a never ending cycle and create more of a problem in my opinion. I will continue to teach MY children how I see fit, as that is my right as a parent as it is everybody’s right as a parent. The minute my child uses the phrase, “that is gay,” there will be a problem. We have a very close family member that happens to be gay, so I will NOT tolerate her learning that there is anything wrong with him. From the church, from her friends, from the school…from anybody! It is fine to not agree with that actions of a person but do not categorize that person as a whole as anything less than a person worthy of love and respect. (I am not saying that is happening here, I am just saying I will not tolerate that type of behavior.) If my child learns it at school (even from a friend on the playground) it is still the school’s responsible to address it by law. The have the obligation to address all types of bullying and name calling based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender nonconformity. Meaning, if a child is called gay or any other slur because he is not behaving masculine enough, that under Illinois law, is considered harassment and a report can be filed to the office of civil rights. If they feel that school does not address it fully and appropriately, they can and will then come in and enforce policy of their own.

    Reply

    • Amanda,

      Thank you.

      Anthony

      Reply

    • Posted by Thank You! on May 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Thank you! I think that these comments hit on something that has not been considered by many of the comments. So much emphasis has been placed on what the school is or is not doing. No matter what the school chooses to implement as its curriculum that is only part of the solution. It would be much more advantageous for parents to spend time with their children teaching them character and values and discuss any questions that the children may bring home from school (Whether you agree or disagree with any curriculum, it should still provide an opportunity to teach your own values at home). At times, I think too much responsibility is placed on the school and instead of parents taking some of the responsibility themselves, it is a lot easier to just point fingers at schools. No curriculum will succeed if the values and behaviors being taught in a school are not reinforced by the home.

      Reply

  20. Posted by Nicky Friedrichsen on May 24, 2012 at 11:59 am

    As adults we are able to make the choice whether or not to buy a specific movie, to watch certain television shows, or whether or not to buy a potentially offensive book. The catch in this situation is that the children, namely my preschooler and my second grader, do not have the ability to make the choice to participate or not participate in the counseling session regarding The Family Book. That is where the parents should step in and make the best decision for their family. In this situation there was no parental notification and no opportunity for parents to opt out. Every family is different and each has its challenges. What is acceptable for one family may not be for another. Regardless if one agrees or disagrees with the Instructional Materials, lifestyle, faith, etc., it is important to remember that this country offers us something that many others do not: the freedom of choice. Exercising the choice to participate or not to participate is what most parents want so they are able to regulate what their children see and hear from the various influences on them. I will nurture my children to have respect, integrity, and strength in character. If everyone put as much effort into building up their own families as they do arguing over this issue then the district would not need to have this debate in the first place. Sure, that is an ideal situation but shouldn’t we strive for that? In the meantime we all need to come alongside each other to do what it takes to provide the best possible environment for our children. By having one common goal we can work with each other and not against each other. That is the example we should set for our children.

    Reply

    • Nicky,

      Thank you for your comment and intelligent reasoning.

      Anthony

      Reply

    • Posted by Amanda on May 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      THANK YOU NICKY! I could not agree with you more. The school has had terrible communication with parents regarding this issue (and others in the past) and THAT is why things have gotten SO messy. Had it been presented a little more clearly I bet none of this would have ever happened. Parents would have had the choice to opt out to begin with while other parents would have still been able to have their children partake in the lessons as they stood. Unfortunately, as they say, live and learn. Illinois is not a state the requires the schools to notify parents of upcoming controversial materials being presented. That does not mean that it isn’t common courtesy. Do I think ALL materials should be set for parental review? No. But if there is even a question or doubt on whether somebody would take issue with it, then yes, a little heads up is appreciated. While I would have chosen keep my child’s lesson the same, another parent obviously would not have. The CHOICE is I think what has become the issue. Parents opposed are mad because that choice was not given to them in the first place, and parents for the material are now mad that that choice feels like it was taken away. What is done is done. Let’s take this energy and put it BACK into our children. I am glad it has sparked such a reaction and gotten people talking though. I don’t judge anybody for their views and I certainly hope they do not judge me for mine. I don’t force my opinion (or usually even publicly give one) onto others, so I really hope just because I teach my children that it is okay that they have two uncles, you do not stop saying hi to me on the street or stop letting my kids play with yours.

      Reply

  21. Posted by Thoughtful Questions on May 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I have thoughtfully been reading all the passionate responses, and that has led me to additional questions that I want answered. So, I have contacted the school and received the following clarifications to some of the questions that previous individuals have posted. Here are the FACTS:

    1. The principal witnessed bias language being used and went to the school counselor to find resources to remedy this.

    2. There has been mention that parents were not notified of these materials. This is FALSE. A newsletter (Counselor Happenings, March/April 2012) was sent home to every elementary school student and this information was provided. This was before the lessons had begun. This apparently was the reason this whole dramatic stage play started. A parent or two read the newsletter and objected to these materials. Hence the material review committee being convened and offering their recommendation. If by chance you are a parent in the district and did not read the newsletter, that is your issue. The school was not covering anything up. In fact, they went above and beyond.

    3. Some people have mentioned that teaching homosexuality in the elementary school is not age appropriate. That is TRUE. This is not an age appropriate topic for that age level and this is NOT being taught in the school.

    4. What do the three lessons within Ready, Set, Respect that were used actually teach? The topics were bullying, gender nonconformity, and family diversity. No where within the lessons actually used are the words: homosexuality, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. This is TRUE. Parents that contacted the school were allowed to come in and see the lessons used. Keep in mind the entire tool kit was not used, just 3 lessons to address the needs of bias language.

    I hope this lends some comfort to those who have thought things were out of control in the elementary school, and additional confidence to others that the interests of all Erie kids were being protected.

    Reply

  22. Thoughtful Questions,

    Thank you for the update.

    If anyone disagrees with what you have to say, at this point, contact the school principal or the superintendent.

    Nothing will get accomplished going back and forth here.

    Everyone has had a chance to vent and compare notes.

    Anthony

    Reply

  23. Posted by Nicky Friedrichsen on May 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    The newsletter we received did outline the instructional materials, but was sent home after the book was read to my son’s class. Our family was discussing our views on the subject the day I received the letter and I brought up the book. My son said, “Oh we already had that book in our class.” The letter was more of a recap of what was in the process of being taught, what has been covered and what was to come, and did provide additional resources for parents to use if they chose to in discussing the concepts with their children further. Nobody said I had to pursue the subject with my children, but at the same time nobody informed me that the school would be sharing the material with the kids until after the fact. Yes the newsletter did alert people to the material, as it does every time it is published, and provided discussion points for families. Going forward it would be helpful to have advanced notice and the opportunity for reaction time. That should circumvent any potential problems and will continue to keep the focus on the kids and their needs and off of the adults who can’t play nice in the sandbox of life.

    Reply

  24. Years ago we taught our children that some families have a mom and a dad, some families have two moms, and some families have two dads. There was no discussion of sex, we simply explained they would meet friends whose families would be different than ours. We explained that all families deserve respect, and that it’s wrong to judge anyone on characteristics other than the strength of their character and the manner in which they treat others. The Family Book simply states there are myriad types of families. It doesn’t sexualize the topic, it doesn’t promote or negate any one familial structure, it simply states a reality. I wish the book was available to my wife and I years ago when we gently broached the non-issue of the diverse types of families that make up our community.

    Reply

  25. Posted by Nicky Friedrichsen on June 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I have to agree with Thank You!’s comments. For my husband and I (who is a 4th grade teacher at a local school) we want the option to tell our children the age-appropriate explanations of many things in the world. We are committed conservative Christians and by design do not preach or teach hatred, bigotry, exclusion or anything else that Christians or the church are being accused of. For us, we want the option to be able to opt out of something if we do not believe in the teaching. Some parents choose to have the school raise their children and rely on their teachers to have hard discussions with the kids. I know this for a fact because I hear about it every day. I would NEVER teach my children to do anything but respect others, regardless of who people are or what they do. A sin is a sin, is a sin, is a sin. Period. Some argue that homosexuality is “worse” because people knowingly and intentionally go back to it over and over again. But so do people who engage in gluttony, gossip, theft, etc. It is not our job to judge others. That’s between God and them. My job is to teach my children right and wrong. Do I want the GLSEN material taught in the schools? No I don’t. If the school rescinds the decision and allows the material is that ok with me? Yes it is. All I want is the option to remove my children. I want to be able to make the call if I want my children involved in those discussions. The school and everyone else who supports the GLSEN need to stop assuming that all parents are slackers and give those of us who are getting the job done some credit. I am not saying I am perfect because nobody is. I am fat, I have lied before, I have gossiped, and sometimes I let my kids eat cookies for breakfast. I believe that Erie is teaching anti-bullying because of the efforts of the wonderful counselors and teachers there. For anyone to deny that is ignorant of the work that goes on in a school day. People on both sides of this issue are essentially pulling for the same thing: What is best for the kids. It is time that parents make the decision on what is best for their kids and step up to perform their parental duties rather than relying on others to do that.

    Reply

  26. Nicky,

    As a parent, I’ve let my daughter eat cookies for breakfast, too!

    Thank you for the well thought out comments. I appreciate your honesty and approach.

    I just have one question and this isn’t questioning your viewpoint. As a parent, would you oppose having “The Family Book” in the library as a resource available for parents or students that want to read it, as long as it isn’t taught? I’m just asking about having the book available for those that want it in school.

    Anthony

    Reply

    • Posted by Nicky Friedrichsen on June 5, 2012 at 12:26 am

      No, I would not mind it. Just as with a movie store, book store, music store, there will always be those selections that my children will not be able to view or hear. All through life kids will encounter things that are appropriate and inappropriate and it is the parents’ job to regulate and explain that. My children would not be allowed to check out the book, but when they get a bit older I may let them read it so they know what the controversy is about. It is impossible to defend a viewpoint if you do not know the facts. If my children are called to speak to their faith, I want them to know what they are talking about. It could be a valuable teaching tool for both sides of this debate. Those who think the concept of different families is wrong can teach their kids what not to emulate but to respect others. For those who think different types of families is right and want their kids to read about it can check out the book and learn respect that way. The key here is that respect of others has to be taught on both sides. Furthermore, for those in your camp who call Christians intolerant and bigots are generalizing and stereotyping that all Christians are disrespectful. How is that different from what Christians are accused of? Stereotyping and generalizing is wrong no matter what side of the coin you are on and so is name calling. If someone does not know me, they have no idea what I think, feel, or know. If they get to know me then they will realize that I am not what they perceive me to be just because others are that way. I would never pass judgment on you, Anthony because I do not know you. If we got to know each other I am confident that we would have many heated discussions but would do so in a respectful manner. So long story short, no I would not mind the book being there but, just as you do not want me to force feed you my beliefs, do not force feed my family yours. It’s all about choice and I choose not to have my family read it at this point.

      Reply

  27. Nicky,

    I can’t speak “for those in your camp who call Christians intolerant and bigots are generalizing and stereotyping that all Christians are disrespectful.”

    However, I can speak for myself. I respect your beliefs from what you’ve stated since that’s how I know you. You seem like a person full of love for your fellow man, whether you agree or disagree with them.

    I know many people who are Christian that go to church and that don’t go to church. They, like you, are loving and caring people.

    On the other hand, I do find the pastors and religious zealots that I’ve posted and blogged about that talk hate and talk about killing gays, “intolerant and bigots”. And, they call themselves “Christians”. Without knowing you personally, I feel that you would say that isn’t very “Christian” of them. If I’m wrong, my apologies for making that assessment.

    Nicky, take care of yourself and your family and have a great summer.

    Anthony

    Reply

  28. Posted by Tom on June 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Being from this community and talking to people and seeing what has happened. All of this stuff was band for religious reasons!

    Reply

  29. [...] Does The Erie School District (Illinois) Need A Stronger Anti-Bullying Approach? [...]

    Reply

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