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D86 Movie Controversy: Board Member Wants More Oversight

Richard Skoda said he wants to avoid future issues by having the board review course outlines in advance of classes getting underway.

As the first curriculum objection from a district parent in at least eight years is reviewed, one District 86 Board of Education member says he wants the elected body to have more oversight of learning materials in district classrooms.

Richard Skoda said at last Monday’s board meeting that he wants the board to see and approve in advance outlines for every course going forward so that controversies like the one stemming from the showing of “American Beauty” and “Brokeback Mountain” in a Hinsdale South Film as Literature course, the subject of the current curriculum objection and an example of “poor judgment” according to Skoda, don’t happen in the future.

“I think it’s unfair to put the teacher, the department chair, the principal, and the superintendent in a position where they have to approve a curriculum that has not been signed off by the board,” Skoda said.

READ: D86 Parent on Objection to Racy Movies: 'Maybe Mine Will Open the Door'

Superintendent Nick Wahl said the board does oversee curriculum in that it must approve all new courses proposed by district staff, and each year signs off on all textbooks and novels, and the online materials that accompany them.

“The Latin root for curriculum is course, and you as a board approve the courses that go into the program of study for both campuses on an annual basis, and any and all changes that may be proposed,” Wahl said.

Movies are among the non-textbook materials that are selected by teachers and vetted by department chairs, Hinsdale South principal Brian Waterman said. The building principal must approve R-rated movies, according to Board Policy 6:210, which was adopted by a board that included Skoda in 2005.

Beyond that policy, Wahl said, is the established district procedure of requiring students to get parental consent before watching any R-rated movies in class. That procedure was followed with those in charge of the Film as Literature course, who required parents to sign the syllabus containing the movies that would be shown.

Skoda spoke Monday against showing the two films in question and made a motion to temporarily suspend their showing as the curriculum objection is processed. That motion was tabled by a 5-2 vote. Dianne Barrett voted with Skoda.

READ: D86 Board Decision on Racy Movies Not What Most Audience Members Wanted

“Nobody is saying the board should write the curriculum,” Skoda said. “The district administration should write the curriculum, present it to the board, and the board approves it just like the textbooks.

“To say we’re going to approve textbooks but we’re not going to approve movies is ridiculous.”

Waterman said that the materials planned for courses change regularly, and Board President Dennis Brennan said the board with the 2005 policy delegated to administration the responsibility of supplementary-material oversight.

Brennan inferred that approving every material in every class is not realistic.

“Quite frankly, we would have to have a meeting every night in order to do that,” he said.

No vote was taken regarding a policy change going forward and Skoda did not make clear if he would bring such a motion at a future meeting.

Other Patch stories on the District 86 movie issue:

  • How Does a Curriculum Objection Work in District 86?
  • Complaints About Sex-Heavy Films in School Prompt Cops to Review District Emails

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chet everett October 02, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Skoda has been proven himself to be COMPLETELY INCAPABLE of showing other than "poor judgement". He is the LAST PERSON I would want reviewing ANY course outlines. The lunatic "taxes are the only thing that matters" crowd that elected this disgrace must be called out and the voters should NOT never again be fooled into electing this kind of buffoon to ANY other board!

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