This is a letter discovered by Duval County parent Aaron Harvey, who says his son wrote the letter because his 4th grade teacher told him to. It is signed by the student, but we have blurred out his name because of his age.
Just over one week after WOKV first brought you the concerns of local parents over how constitutional rights are being taught in elementary school classrooms, the Duval County Superintendent is looking at what needs to change.
Cedar Hills Elementary school 4th grade parent Aaron Harvey first raised some questions after finding a note in his son’s backpack reading “I would be willing to give up some of my constitutional rights in order to be safer or more secure.” The ten-year-old told Harvey the teacher had dictated the lesson, and Harvey says this was confirmed through speaking with some of the other parents in the classroom.
The activity was first believed to be a follow-up to a lesson taught by Justice Teaching, which focused on the First Amendment and other rights. Just a few days later, the District released preliminary results of its investigation which found a part of the lesson itself- titled “Teaching about Controversial Issues”- was in question, and was not actually taught by the teacher, but rather the visiting attorney with Justice Teaching. The lesson was said to be “implemented and facilitated correctly.”
WOKV continued to pursue questions on why such a controversial lesson made it in to a 4th grade classroom to begin with.
“The best teachers invite that to happen in a controlled, respectful, professional environment,” says Duval County Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti.
Vitti tellsd me it’s important for children to be taught to think critically and have spirited discussion, but in this lesson itself, he admits there will be a review.
“Can we tweak the way maybe some of the questions are put together,” he says.
He says they are also exploring if the lesson should be brought to an older crowd. But when I asked directly if an admittedly “controversial” lesson that had the potential to spark this kind of outcry will be around in schools again:
“Of course,” Vitti says.
This got many of you fired up on our Facebook and Twitter, but Harvey- the parent with the initial concern- was shocked to hear there were even threats made toward the teacher and volunteer. Harvey tells me, from the beginning, he didn’t even want to see any consequences like suspension on the teacher if there was wrongdoing found, he just wanted to make sure the lesson would be refined. That’s still his position, and he tells me he’s “disappointed” to see people react any other way.
“I’m happy with the approach that was taken [by the District] and the response,” he says.
Harvey does plan to continue pressing the school until these changes are actually put on paper and locked in for future school years.