PERRY: It’s still a small world for small minds, but teachers can’t ignore big issues


    It’s really hard being a parent these days, and a big stink earlier this month at Sky Vista Middle School in Aurora illustrates that.

    A handful of parents from the school stormed a Cherry Creek Schools board meeting about two weeks ago, furious that a 6th-grade teacher had focused the class on a variety of societal problems.

    The parents were apoplectic that a teacher in a social studies class had broached subjects hugely “inappropriate” such as equal pay for women, drug abuse, gender and sexuality and, get this, social justice.
    It’s bad enough that you can’t have kids watching the news anymore, what with the president’s flagrant and prolific sexual abuse of women being graphically compared to that of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. And it’s awkward to explain to budding adolescents why they need to be aware of opioid overdoses in case their suburban parents or grandparents stop breathing from taking too many pills they got at the dentist office. Hopefully by now we’ve taught children not to eat their parents’ marijuana candies.

    And Lord only knows how worrisome it is for kids to keep hearing about imminent nuclear war with some Asian country whose crazy president trades crazy tweets with our own crazy president.

    I totally sympathize with parents who worry about what’s going on at school and have to also worry about trying to explain how malevolent gunmen can just pop up anywhere, anytime and shoot hundreds and hundreds of people, killing scores of them, like in Las Vegas, and right here in Aurora.

    I’m sure their kids were just like mine, who in the first grade had drills about what to do if a shooter gets inside the school and starts wandering the halls, spraying bullets everywhere. My daughter and her classmates were taught to quickly turn out the classroom lights when they first hear gunfire, and then press themselves against the wall in a part of the room where they won’t be easily seen if the shooter looks through the window in the classroom door. She was taught that if the gunman starts shooting children or teachers, try to crawl under someone dead or wounded, because the bodies make good cover. This was a few years before the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the shooting massacre at the Aurora movie theater, and I always wondered if shooting victims there had used this ploy to survive.

    So I guess I can understand parents like Ami Grube, who appears to lead the fight to oust her son’s sixth-grade teacher at Sky Vista for having the audacity to talk about issues totally inappropriate for tweens and teens.

    “Topics such as sexual identification — LGBTQ, rape, suicide, drugs, activism and protesting are not topics that any parent has consented to or that are permitted per state standards,” Grube said in her angry Oct. 9 letter and while she made similar public comments to Cherry Creek schools Superintendent Harry Bull, demanding they oust the offending teacher, Asia Lyons.

    Transgenderism for sixth graders? Of course kids would need some kind of anchor to understand why there may be children in their school whose birth certificate says they’re girls but whom identify as being a boy and want to use the boy’s restroom. I guess that much gender stuff would be acceptable so the kid has some basis to understand what’s going on when nothing like that goes on at home.

    Well, there are more and more same-sex parents with children in public schools. So I guess it makes sense for schools to help kids understand at least the basic concepts of homosexuality, seeing how it’s legal for homosexuals to marry in Colorado, adopt children and raise them. If a couple of married room-dads or room-moms come to school to help out, the kids are going to know and will certainly have questions.

    In fact, way back when dinosaurs roamed Colorado and I was in the fifth grade, everybody got the sex-ed unit because that’s when some girls began menstruating and boys would talk about nothing but sex and Star Trek. Nobody mentioned homosexuality back then. We just let kids suffer all the way through high school, feeling like they were bad, sick or just abnormal and then let them figure it out later for themselves.

    I guess explaining to kids that, hey, we pretty much blew it with handling the gay thing in this country until just a couple of years ago would make sense. Understanding that there are a lot of parallels to that and how this country handled racism for generations might help them understand why we’re struggling still with gay rights.

    I mean, the president said last week that the vice president still wants to hang all the gay people in this country. I’m sure he was joking, but any kid within ear-shot of a TV would have heard it and probably had questions.

    And no school is able to avoid the sexual abuse issues for kids this age. One incident of “sexting” and the kids could be expelled for good. It was just a few years ago that a school on the Western Slope discovered that sexting was so prolific among students that they would essentially have to shut down the school so many kids were involved. It’s pretty hard to help kids understand how wrong sexting is if you don’t have some basis of what human sexuality and human relationships are all about. It’s a lot like the Trump-Weinstein thing and demands kids understand at least something about the rights of women.

    No doubt explaining that, however, brings on a rush of questions about that racism thing. In fact it’s right here in Aurora, too. All that Black Lives Matter stuff? There’s been some black people shot to death by cops here in Aurora, raising questions. Aurora is such a multi-cultural place these days that Sky Vista kids come from all kinds of racial and cultural backgrounds. White kids, taught to always respect and obey police officers to ensure safety might be surprised to hear from their black pals that they’re taught to always respect and obey police officers or else they might be killed.

    It makes for a long week and then there are Mondays. That’s probably a day just filled with racism talk. That’s because so many families watch the Sunday football games, and now those are filled with news and examples of Taking a Knee to protest the lack of social justice for blacks and others. For kids who didn’t have parents there to tell them what’s what, and studies show kids this age are around their parents very little, talk about the president firing a particular NFL “son of a bitch” for “disrespecting the flag” are going to be in everyone’s faces.

    Kids have questions about why the NAACP is warning blacks to stay away from visiting Missouri or take a flight on American Airlines.

    You know what really angered these parents? The teacher invited a Denver social justice protester to class one day to explain why she does what she does and how she feels about all this Black Lives Matter and women’s rights stuff. Never mind that at this age, job one is to get kids to 1. think, and 2. think for themselves, and 3. think long and hard, because those skills will get them through high school, college and the rest of their lives.

    And thinking can prevent suicide, another one of these parents’ taboo topics. While they may not want the subject broached in schools, parents of the more than 150,000 children a year who attempt suicide probably now feel differently.

    Some parents, maybe a handful here and there, don’t see the wisdom of helping kids deal with all this in a school social studies class. For many of them, it’s just inappropriate.

    Of course if you have a television or a computer or a phone, if you venture outside your home, interact with other kids and adults, and live in Colorado, this kind of course is pretty much right on target.

    My sympathies these days are with our kids.

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