Jacksonville, FL - One Duval County parent tells WOKV his son doesn’t even know what his constitutional rights are, so he’s shocked a teacher told the ten-year-old to write a letter on his willingness to give them up.
“That sentence talking about giving away freedoms for safety and security- that bothers me,” says Aaron Harvey.
He tells me his 4th grade son was told to write a note reading "I am willing to give up some of my constitutional rights in order to be safer or more secure" following a lesson led by a guest speaker at Cedar Hills Elementary School. The lesson itself was taught at the end of last year, but Harvey didn't find the note until about 1 1/2 weeks ago.
I obtained the guide for that lesson, which was apparently aimed to “create an awareness of the five rights contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” and help students “determine their opinions on which rights they value most and least.” The lesson included a visiting lawyer specializing in the constitution, which the district tells me is a partnership used specifically for these civics-based lessons.
The lesson itself isn’t in question, but rather what Harvey says the teacher did after.
He says the teacher selected several students out of the class to write that statement and sign it. It’s the same story he’s hearing from other parents with children in the class.
“I served in the military. I served to protect my family, my country, and that Constitution and everyone’s freedom,” he says.
Harvey tells me if his son actually held that opinion, it is something he would accept. The problem is, his son doesn’t have an understanding of what he actually wrote, and Harvey thinks it’s a dangerous lesson. He says it better reflects the teacher’s opinion than a factual lesson, and that’s not what school is about.
“Being able to understand so they can form their own thoughts and have their own opinions when they get older,” he says.
Cedar Hills Elementary School declined to comment, as did the school board member representing the school.
I reached out to the Duval County School District, which tells me the lesson, specifically, is designed to develop critical thinking skills. In a statement issued to WOKV, the district says “our possible concern rests with a follow-up activity that may have been conducted after the lesson.” They are now investigating the “facts of the assignment.”
Harvey tells me the District claims his son did the activity on his own free will, without any prompting from the teacher. I asked the district if this was their stance at this time, and Spokeswoman Marsha Oliver only reiterated their statement that an investigation will occur.
Harvey says there is a meeting planned for next week where he hopes to learn more about the intended assignment and the logic behind the follow-up activity. He tells me he doesn’t want to see any punishment on the teacher, but rather an agreement that an activity like this wouldn’t happen in the future.