Denton school officials say they believe an issue with discrepancies in a supplemental instruction guide used by high school juniors is something that will work itself out.
Six local residents and some from surrounding areas this week brought concerns about the supplemental instruction guide United States History — Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination, used by the district in AP U.S. history classes before the Denton school board.
The speakers expressed concern that students are being taught inaccurate information about the Bill of Rights and asked that something be done about it.
For more than a week, emotions have run high about a passage in the guide which summarizes the Second Amendment as such: “The people have the right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.”
The actual Second Amendment as printed in the Bill of Rights states that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
Denton school officials have said the book is used as supplemental material to the official course textbook, American Pageant, to help students study for the AP U.S. history exam.
Among the speakers Tuesday was Sean Getts, father of a Guyer High school junior taking AP U.S. history. A Facebook post giving his thoughts on the guide and the verbiage identified in the book by his daughter went viral and was mentioned in blog posts across the Web and on cable and local TV networks.
“I originally pointed out the Second Amendment because it was inaccurate. I also pointed it out because it’s important to me, all the Bill of Rights ... are important but the second one is continuously under fire and increasingly under fire with every massacre,” Getts told board members on Tuesday.
He told board members that upon sitting back and dismissing the emotion of the situation, the real issue at hand was the education of his child and several others. Getts said the district’s official position is that the guide is not “a state-approved textbook” but an aid; however, that doesn’t lessen his worries.
Though it has been explained to him how books get into the classroom and the process for selecting books, he’s said what concerns him is that books with inaccuracies are still in use. Getts said he’s also concerned about the AP exam and what guarantees parents have that the answers match up with the content being taught in Denton classrooms.
“There is still one problem,” Getts told board members. “Why does my daughter leave the state-approved textbook at home with instructions to bring the supplement to class every day — the supplement to class every day? Now, the American Pageant is supposed to be the main textbook that she’s learning from.
“Why is the same perception that the supplement is actually the main book being worked from? That perception is shared across with other students, across other classrooms. It just doesn’t meet the definition of supplement anymore, it just seems like the main.”
Because of this experience, Getts said he now holds his daughter to a higher standard — one in which she should know U.S. history better than any of her peers. Getts said he looks forward to working with school officials in “correcting the problem.”
“I’m asking that we all hold ourselves to a higher standard,” Getts said.
Concerned parents, residents and military veterans from McKinney, Arlington and Lewisville addressed the board during two of the three open forums at Tuesday’s meeting about the supplemental instruction guide. They asked board members for direction on what could be done to remove books they claimed have inaccuracies and “rewrite history” removed from classrooms. They also asked that someone be held accountable for allowing such books to be used in classrooms.
John Looper of Corinth told the board that for the past 50 years, American freedoms have eroded and that “by paraphrasing the very issue, the very rights that we are guaranteed by our Constitution is starting to erode those to.” He “admonished” the board not to contribute to “destruction” by allowing the guide to remain in the classroom.
D.D. Stone of McKinney told the board she’s appalled that, of all places, a Texas school district “is the one circulating liberal gun-control propaganda as classroom text for our children,” and that she’s concerned about the “attempt to openly rewrite history in our history courses.” As a mother of a high school junior and a third-grade student, Stone said she feels children are being taught their constitutional rights are what the current administration “wishes they were.”
She told board members that as advocates for children, she’d like to believe they volunteered to run and did so with the intent to advocate for students’ rights not just today but for the future.
“If that isn’t the intent, then I would respectfully hope that your actions speak louder than words and you would resign because this school district, our children, this state and our children deserve better, and it starts here. It starts with us,” Stone told board members.
During a break prior to the board going into closed session, Superintendent Jamie Wilson said district officials continue to work with staff at ensuring the direct source, the Constitution and the the textbook for the course, American Pageant, is being used for lessons.
Nearly half a dozen people waited about three hours for board members to return from closed session and adjourn the meeting so that they could share with them one-on-one concerns about the supplemental instruction guide being used. As they waited, the small gathering watched TV coverage of the filibuster/talkathon by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and ordered a couple of pizzas.
Among those who stayed to speak with board members was Denton resident Read King. King said he attended Tuesday’s meeting to offer support to Getts, but he also wanted to discuss with board members whether the dialogue could continue in the form of an agenda item at a future board meeting and about what opportunities there were for concerned parents in the district to become involved “in the process to fix this problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“We need to be teaching our children accurate and truthful information,” King said. “The reasons the schools exist is for a general diffusion of knowledge in order to preserve our liberties and our rights. If we are teaching factually incorrect information about those rights, how can we defend the system?”
Board President Charles Stafford said he and Wilson spent about 15 to 30 minutes following Tuesday’s meeting speaking with individuals who waited. He said it was a positive discussion that “was certainly amicable.”
“We are just getting our arms around it,” he said. “We have to teach the kids that they can’t [believe] everything that they read. It’s just true in the world. There’s so much out there that you need to continue to check everything for accuracy.”
Stafford said the board appreciated the individuals who contributed to the discussion and spoke before the board in open forum. He said he doubts if this discussion is something that will go on an agenda for a future board meeting.
“I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of this and move on,” Stafford said. “I think it’s something that could probably be dealt with swiftly and not be an agenda item.
“What we need to do is correct the error that we have in our materials and move forward.”
Citing a quote from the supplemental instruction guide’s former publisher, AMSCO School Publications Inc., printed in the Denton Record-Chronicle on Sept. 18, that said the guide was being revised with intent to include the original Bill of Rights language, Stafford said he thinks the issue is “well on the way to taking care of itself.”
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.