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Rockingham County School Board goes over curriculum review policy

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 9:49 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Rockingham County School Board met on Monday night and one of the items on the agenda was an overview of the school division’s policy for parents to challenge curriculum and learning materials.

The presentation came in response to a request from a board member to remind parents of the process they need to go through if they’re looking to challenge curriculum or instructional materials, like books.

“We have had a process in place for at least 15 to 20 years so we’ve always had a process that if we see the parent complaint we follow the process, so we would just like to reiterate the process,” said Dr. Charlette McQuilkin, a member of the Rockingham County School Board.

While there were no changes to the policy voted on, the board decided to go over the process because school curriculum challenges have become a hot topic across the state.

Concerns begin at the school level. The complainant is first invited to a conference with the principal and the teacher, staff member, or librarian responsible for the use of the challenged materials. If a compromise cannot be reached, the complainant must complete the “Media Complaint Form” and the staff member will complete the “Media Complaint Response Form.”

From there, the school’s principal will convene a committee of two patrons and three staff members to review the challenged materials.

“The process begins at the school level and there are many people involved not only staff people and administration but parents and community members. So it’s a very inclusive process and it starts at the school level and works its way up if it needs to,” said Dr. McQuilkin.

If the committee agrees to a recommendation acceptable by all parties, then the principal will file a report with the superintendent.

“If a complainant, whether that be a parent in the school, the staff member, or principal, is not satisfied with the decision of that committee, then a division-level committee is formed,” Lisa Tate, the Libraries Supervisor at RCS, said at the meeting. “The committee provides a report of their decision of the text to the superintendent.”

She explained that the superintendent can agree with their resolution or propose a different solution.

“If a resolution is not reached, the superintendent would make a recommendation for action by the school board and the school board could make a final decision to retain, modify or withdraw the challenged materials,” Tate said.

She explained that student choice is recommended for independent reading, and if a student asks for alternative text, teachers can provide alternative, comparable materials.

During his comments, school board member Matt Cross shared his concerns over an undisclosed book in schools that was previously approved by a committee to stay in school. He said there needs to be a way to “cut the red tape” to let some of those decisions come before the school board.

“It’s just one book of many as we begin to go down this road of parents really starting to see what their sons and daughters are reading at school,” Cross said. “Not every book is for every child, but not every book is appropriate, and that is what we’re getting at.”

During the meeting, it appeared Cross had asked for photos of the book he is concerned about be shown to the board and audience, but that was not permitted.

“The difference between a book that is voluntary reading at a school and is mandatory reading is the same as showing it to a captive audience of students who are here and students who may be watching at home, and those who choose to do so,” Superintendent Dr. Oskar Scheikl said.

Cross ended his comments by asking that a Bible specifically be placed in every school library in the division.

In other business, the board voted to adopt a bid for structural renovations to the East Building of the Massanutten Technical Center.

The board will meet twice next week to go over the school division’s budget for the upcoming academic year.

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