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Courtesy photo/Sean Getts

School book sparks outcry

Profile image for By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

Entry in supplemental instruction guide at DISD causes concern

A question raised about content relating to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in a supplemental instruction guide used by Denton school district high school juniors has stirred some controversy.

District officials say that while the guide is used in a junior-level course to help students study for the Advanced Placement U.S. history exam, it’s not the district’s official high school textbook.

Sean Getts, father of a junior at Guyer High School, said he was in disbelief about an entry his daughter recently found in a book she was using for her AP U.S. history class titled United States History — Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination.

According to Page 102 of the book as shown in a photograph taken by Getts, the summary of the Second Amendment reads as such: “The people have the right to keep and bear arms in a state militia.” Physical copies of the 768-page aid in use by Denton students to verify the statement were unavailable, according to district officials.

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.”

Getts said that when he read the school book entry, he interpreted it as the right to bear arms was restricted to a state militia and that he only had the right in a state militia. At first glance, Getts said he was in disbelief at what he read.

“It was like unbelievable. I can’t believe it. This is wrong,” he said. “I was concerned.”

He took a photo of the page in the book and posted it to his Facebook page Sunday with the statement, “From my daughter’s AP United States History book. Looks like I’ll be educating the school system.”

Within days, the Facebook post went viral and was being mentioned in blog posts across the Web and on cable and local TV networks.

“I didn’t know that it was going to end up the way it did,” he said. “The unintended natural consequences have been the outrage they’re indoctrinating our children. I have no evidence of that.”

According to Denton school officials, the book is used as supplemental material to the course textbook, American Pageant.

“The main history book that is utilized in the Advanced Placement U.S. History class for juniors in Denton ISD is titled: American Pageant. This is a history book that has had a strong reputation for historical facts for many years. The American Pageant, the official textbook, gives the exact Bill of Rights,” wrote Sharon Cox, a district spokeswoman, in a statement. “The book in question, U.S. History: Preparing for Advanced Placement Exams, is a supplement instructional aid and not the official textbook for any history classes. In this supplement, it states that the following is a ‘summary statement.’ The teachers and staff are aware of this ‘summary statement’ and are teaching the amendments from the primary source, the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments, and from the classroom textbook, American Pageant.

“The only approved textbook for these classes is American Pageant. All other materials are ‘supplemental,’” she noted in the news release.

In recent days, officials with the Denton school district have fielded phone calls and e-mails at Guyer High and various departments throughout the district — mostly from individuals with gun groups, Cox said. The number of calls and messages was unavailable.

Cox said Wednesday the supplement instruction aid has been used the past eight to 10 years by high school juniors taking AP U.S. history. The supplemental aid is available at all three traditional high schools in the district, she said.

History teachers are disseminating the correct information on the Second Amendment and that the amendments are not taught from the supplement instruction aid, she said.

“This is just a supplemental study aid available to the students to study for the AP history exam,” Cox said. “It’s just important for everyone to know that our history teachers are disseminating the correct information on the Second Amendment and all other amendments as well as the U.S. Constitution.”

Kimberly Williams, parent to a Guyer High senior, said she was initially upset upon reading reports about the supplemental instruction aid at the school. She said it wasn’t until her daughter, who took AP U.S. history last year, explained to her that inaccuracies in the guide were being pointed out to students as a lesson that people can’t believe everything they read and that they must research for themselves.

Students pay for the supplemental guides, not the school, and old copies are handed down to students who can’t afford a copy, Williams said.

She also said she found the recent blog posts and news reports to be misleading.

Getts said he intended to “take action locally” and reached out to his daughter’s teacher when he was unable to find information on the supplemental instruction aid. He said that, since the post, he’s met with school officials about the approval and selection process for AP books used in the classroom and intends to attend next week’s school board meeting to voice his concern about the supplemental material.

Getts also said he was concerned about whether answers to the AP exam include any references to the supplemental material.

Both Getts and Williams said the supplemental materials contained other inaccuracies besides the reference to the Second Amendment.

“It’s important to me because the area about the inaccuracies. ... This is the Bill of Rights. We built a nation on these principles. It’s a foundation,” Getts said. “Inaccuracies being taught in school systems can wreck a nation. On the Second Amendment specifically, this is increasingly under fire. Every massacre or shooting, gun control comes up and so that’s why it’s important. It’s frequently attacked here lately.”

According to Texas Education Agency officials, United States History — Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination is not a “state adopted book.”

TEA officials say school districts can select to purchase and use supplemental materials and other materials not adopted by the state.

The book’s former publisher, AMSCO School Publications Inc., said the book is currently being revised.

“Perfection Learning recently acquired AMSCO School Publications including the AP U.S. History book. This title is currently being revised and it is our intention to include the original language of the Bill of Rights in the new edition,” wrote Karen Andersen, a customer service representative with AMSCO School Publications in an e-mail Wednesday. “This title is just one of hundreds of texts acquired through purchase of the company and Perfection Learning will continue reviewing all these new materials to identify any needed corrections and updates.”

A Facebook event page was created Monday that encouraged individuals to share their thoughts on the supplement instruction aid at the next school board meeting, slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Cox said board discussion on the issue is not currently expected to be on the agenda for the meeting.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.