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WCS school board votes to keep textbook in classrooms

The Williamson County Schools Board of Education voted 8-4 to uphold the ad hoc textbook committee’s decision to keep a controversial AP textbook – The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, 10th Edition by James Rubenstein published by Pearson – in classrooms.

After months of community debate over the textbook that some call anti-Semitic, the school board deliberated for most of Monday’s meeting about whether to (1) uphold the textbook committee decision (2) overturn the decision or (3) hold a hearing to consider an appeal by Laurie Cardoza-Moore.

Board members P.J. Mezera, District 3, Tim McLaughlin, District 4, Cherie Hammond, District 6, and Mark Gregory, District 11, ultimately voted against.

“My recommendation is to uphold the decision of the textbook committee,” Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney said during the meeting.

McLaughlin, made a motion to amendment the textbook committee’s decision including that, “Teachers must inform students and parents regarding the paragraph about the bombing of Jewish teens, which cannot be used in any way during classroom instruction.”

McLaughlin expressed his concern about young students enrolled in the class, some of which could be as young as 14 years old.

"It's horrific that this is talked about in school. The killing of teenage children has no place in school." 

However, the motion ultimately failed.

According to Deputy Superintendent, Jason Golden, the district had been notified by the publisher that the paragraph would be removed in the next edition of the textbook and has already been removed in the online edition.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, about a half dozen passionate citizens asked the school board to remove the textbook from classrooms in front of a room full of textbook opponents, who filled the Auditorium in the Williamson County Administrative Complex.

Some complainants expressed their opposition to the book’s perceived “anti-Semitic,” “anti-American” and “anti-Christian” slant with another citizen even saying that the book is “rife with misleading ideas as capitalism is evil.” 

Although Eric Welch, District 10, said that there are some flaws with the textbook, his approach was practical. He questioned the amount of time and resources expended if the textbook were to be removed from classrooms.

“The cure could be worse than the disease in this case. We have almost 1,000 kids taking this class. We would order the new textbook, wait for it to arrive ...,” Welch said, which would possibly be a hardship on the class.

“We have almost 1,000 kids taking this class. We would order the new textbook, wait for it to arrive,” Welch said, which would possibly be a hardship on the class.

Welch also expressed dissatisfaction in other available textbooks that might replace the current one in question if it were removed, saying that some would not be approved by the College Board. “This is an AP course in which students can receive college credit,” he said. 

“That [removing textbook] doesn’t seem like a reasonable option. There are limitations of the textbook and things that I don’t like. I wish it weren’t the textbook that we have, but it is. It’s time to be a leader … we have to look at ‘what are our options’ if not this, then what?”

Board member Mark Gregory, District 11, said that the only way to hear other options was to vote against the textbook committee’s decision and hold a hearing – a statement that met applause from the audience.

However, the option never came to fruition when the decision to keep the textbook was passed by the board.
Janice Mills expressed her concern in adhering to policy. “To my understanding. We have three options. Do we have the authority to add or subtract language from the committee? I think that steps outside of the scope of what we are asked to do.”
However, textbook opponents were disappointed by the board’s decision. Outspoken opponent on the issue, WCS parent Julie West would have liked a hearing.

“It’s never a bad thing to have more information,” she said.

Laurie Cardoza-Moore, complainant, said that she wished things had turned out differently.

“There are several problems. They talked like the quote was removed, but it’s still in the text by Pearson,” Cardoza-Moore said.

Previously, Cardoza-Moore said that the textbook committee was “not knowledgeable” enough about the subject of ant-Semitism in America. 

She had also expressed worry that the textbook could mislead another group of kids.

Additional Board Business:
The board passed a resolution urging the Tennessee Department of Education to reopen the TCAP appeals process for the correction of coding errors. For related story, click here.

However, Kenneth Peterson, District 1, proposed an amendment to remove the last line of the resolution stating that the board would allow Looney to take all reasonable steps “effectuating” the resolution including “necessary legal action.” However, the motion failed due to the absence of a second to the motion.

However, the board approved McLaughlin’s motion to change “necessary” to “potential” legal action. The board also requested that Looney consult with the body before making legal decisions, which Looney vowed to uphold.

The board also voted to approve $15.4 million in capital outlay funds, which includes design plans for the new high school and elementary and/or middle or K-8 schools in Nolensville.

Looney also stated his plans to approach the county commission in collaboration to decide how to use an additional $700,000 (over projections) in revenues and expenditures, gained from the 2012-13 fiscal year.

For more information on these issues, see future Herald eblasts.

For related stories, see:
WCS Board to discuss state legal action, textbook controversy, and capital outlay funds
Complainant to appeal textbook committee decision
Textbook author says it’s academics, not anti-Semitism
Textbook committee revealed, complainant heard
Identity of textbook-review committee members to remain secret

Posted on: 8/20/2013


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