A Peoria Unified School District family is questioning why the District subjected young students to racist and homophobic language as part of a lesson on bullying. Students at Vistancia Elementary School were forced to watch a video in which the “N” word and other epithets were used.
The family also wants to know why the District did not honor their request that they be notified in advance of any lessons that may include certain controversial material. According to the mother, Heather Rooks, she signed a parent opt-out form specifying that her children should not be subjected to anything related to Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and/or Diversity instruction.
Rooks said she received a phone call from school officials on Friday, October 22. She returned the call at 12:44 and staff advised her that they did not know who from the school tried to call her. She hoped she would at least get an email explaining why the school called.
She did receive an email at 1:00 p.m. from the new assistant principal, Mrs. McPherson. McPherson explained that an anti-bullying assembly for 5th and 6th graders was held at 9:00 a.m. that morning. So, while she did receive notice, it was a full 4 hours after her child had already been subjected to the controversial content.
When Rooks picked up her kids up from school later that day, her son said he watched a video during the assembly that was “shocking” to him and his friends.
“A kid said he was called the N word,” the young boy told his mom, “and they talked about racism.”
Surprised and confused, Rooks called McPherson.
“I had no idea what he was talking about, so I called the assistant principal,” Rooks told the Arizona Daily Independent. “She told me it was anti-bullying assembly again and she wanted to let me know because it falls under SEL. She said she tried to leave me voicemail but it was full. Mind you, the assembly was at 9:00 a.m., so it was already too late.”
Rooks asked McPherson about the video students watched.
“I asked her what the video was that my son watched, and she said she couldn’t remember where she got it, but she has used it before at the previous schools she was at. I asked for the video to be sent to me.”
Rooks asked for a copy of the video and followed up with a request for the material in an email.
By Monday, Rooks had still not received any information about the video.
“I called the school at 10:30 a.m.,” explained Rooks. “Mrs. McPherson told me I had to request the video in written form first and that the request would be routed through the Curriculum Department. I told her I had already emailed her asking for the video. She said she would send my email to Principal Rawlings and see what he wanted to do.”
“I received an email from Mr. Rawlings 25 minutes later stating the assistant principal would email me. She emailed me (See screenshot below). I told her do not speak to my son about the assembly. I also stated I would like the video to be sent to me and wouldn’t go to the office until I saw the video.”
After enduring excuses, dodges, stalling, and otherwise insulting tactics, Rooks finally received the video. She knew immediately why her son, and any child raised by loving and civilized parents would be shocked. The words the young children used in the video, if used by Rooks’ kids or any of their friends, would land them in trouble at home.
“I am shocked,” said Rooks. “How could they imagine that they wouldn’t need think to seek approval from parents?”
This isn’t the first time Peoria Unified District staff ignored an opt-out request by parents. According to AZ Free News, earlier this month the mother and father of a middle school student, Amy and Shawn Souza, were forced to “filed a statement of allegations against Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) with the Arizona State Board of Education for attempting to hide reportedly politicized curriculum from them and ignoring their opt-out requests.”