Updated: Mar 21, 2021
On October 2, 2020, CISD Principal Jennifer Boren realigned the CISD Freshman book permission and book selection process (see below document). The email was entitled "Freshman English Literature Circles". The purpose of this post is to fully explain the Canyon Independent School District's update to the original Fall 2020 Freshman book permission and selection process from a parent's perspective. We will not discuss specific book appropriateness or even past / current book list selections. The purpose is to understand the new process flow and highlight and/or review communication methods, revealing details and potential pitfalls.
We'd like to first define the 10/02/20 new process flow as we understand it and then walk through several points presented in the email.
1 - Permission Given
On the first day of school, your child brings home the English class paper permission form requiring a parent signature.
2 - List Emailed
The teacher emails parents a list of books.
3 - Book Tasting
One week after the list was emailed to parents, the child will begin review of all the books in class.
4 - Book Selection
Teacher asks child to select book in class.
As far as we can tell, the process flow is extremely similar to what was previously in place. The addition is a step in which the children will now be exposed to all titles during 'book tasting' and the and time parameter in which parents have 10 days after the email is sent to review books prior to the commencement of 'book tasting'. Below are several statements in the update email.
"There are concerns that our Freshman English I students were presented with choices to read for literature circles which had content that raised questions."
"Parents will receive an email one week prior to the students “BookTasting” with titles of the books that will be offered as choices for students."
"With that being said, we select young adult titles that appeal to a variety of students and have not restricted student choice within these titles."
"We hope these steps help assure you that we have addressed the concerns and will continue to evaluate and adjust as needed to ensure that we are doing what is best for ALL students at CHS."
Let's analyze statement #1. We were told that this email was an effort by the district to notify parents of the harmful or potentially harmful (depending on your family values) content that children had previously been exposed to, not just in the fall of 2020, but in previous years. This statement, in our opinion, does not alarm or clearly alert parents to the harmful content their child was most likely to have come in contact with. This singular email contains no book lists, book reviews, or any mention of controversial content (profanity count, sex, language, drugs/drinking/smoking, violence, suicide) that might be present within the pages of the books.
Not to mention, as described in our last blog covering pitfalls of the book permission and selection process, we know that many parents are not aware that emails are being sent and/or they are not receiving email communication from the school.
Let's analyze statement #2. The district is counting on parents to continually monitor school emails. From what we understand, the book lists change every six weeks. There are potentially 6 six weeks that parents must be sure to not miss this massively important email in their inbox containing the book lists for the following six weeks. It seems like this is setting parents up to easily miss a singular email. If your inbox looks like ours, we know that staying on top of email is a daily challenge.
Let's analyze statement #3. We are not certain what this means, but "have not restricted student choice" does not give us confidence that the district is moving to a more conservative approach in book selection. We must note here that parental rights are very important. We do think that if a parent wants a child to read any title (where the reading readiness level is appropriate for the class), the parent has every right to request that title. The issue at hand is when the district is starting out with aggressive content and the poorly communicated, multi-step, non-transparent process prone to cause miscommunication and, potentially, violate family values does not assist parents in protecting their child, we have concerns.
Let's analyze statement #4. We do feel that the district is making an attempt to make things better, and we are grateful. We just hope that in an attempt to do "what is best for ALL students at CHS" that the school will error on the side of caution and have parents individually sign off on content outside the scope of what is safe, secure and can be read aloud at the district school board meeting.
Overall, we still see many of the same pitfalls in the new process that were present before and have been highlighted in our 'CISD 2020 Book Permission Process' post. Please review our 'CISD Book Permission Process Solutions' post for ideas we hope CISD or any school district could adopt to truly have a fully transparent approach that will safeguard children.
The above is an opinion piece based on personal experience and all available resources presented to our children. Please consult with the district to verify all information and processes.