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Parents get into heated debate after controversial worksheet was given at Southington High School

One group said teachers shouldn’t be teaching outside of the curriculum, but others said topics surrounding race and gender need to discussed.

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. — Dozens of locals, parents and students showed up to Thursday night's Southington Board of Education after a handout with controversial material was distributed in a 10th-grade English class at Southington High School, according to the superintendent.

According to a segment on Fox’s America Reports, the worksheet in question included terms like white privilege, social justice, and transgender, among others.

A heated debate took place inside the board room as locals, parents and students gave public comments. One group said teachers shouldn’t be teaching outside of the curriculum without parent or board approval, but others said topics surrounding race and gender need to be discussed.

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“As a parent, I do not agree with these political theories being taught to my children," said a Southington parent who gave a public comment before the board Thursday.

“Censoring students from identities and topics discussed socially and in literature is a threat to both education and the safety of our students," said a Southington High School senior during public comment.

Tensions ran high before the meeting as people with the group Families for Freedom rallied outside of the municipal building. They were met with opposition by other attendees.

Families for Freedom Founder Susan Zabohonski has kids in Southington Public Schools and said she’s concerned about teachers teaching outside the curriculum.

“We want parents to have the first say in what’s being taught to their kids and it doesn’t matter what the worksheet is. We want policy change that teachers will not teach outside of the curriculum," she said.

On the other hand, other parents and students FOX61 spoke with Thursday weren’t bothered by the worksheet.

“I think that we read books that talk about very deep topics and hard to talk about topics but if we can’t talk about them respectfully, I don’t understand how we can talk about literature in general so I think it’s important that we talk about those issues," said Dante Napoletano, a senior at Southington High School.

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“Politicizing a lesson--information that’s being provided to students that’s not trying to change their beliefs but trying to educate them on what certain words and phrases mean, I think has just gone over the top," Elizabeth Johnston, a Southington parent, said.

In addition to public comment, board members and the superintendent also gave statements.

The superintendent said the material has been reviewed. He said the teacher now realizes that the sources may not have been neutral.

“Upon investigating, it’s very clear that this teacher had no ill intent," Superintendent Steven Madancy said.

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“We acknowledge our processes were not followed regarding this material," Board Chair Colleen Clark said. "But I resent that a personnel matter regarding one of our teachers and our schools have been turned into a political platform by those who have non-educational agendas."

Moving forward, the superintendent is recommending staff teaching content on complex issues be provided with further training on how to address them and consult with colleagues, department leaders or administrators to determine if the material is appropriate. 

Elisha Machado is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at emachado@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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