by Carroll-Sue Rehm
Stakeholder and NonnieBoss to two grandchildren in this district.
Over the past six months, the parents, caregivers, stakeholders and taxpayers have continued to reach out to both the DCRSD School Committee and administration. We have addressed questionable curriculum, the existence of an Equity Committee and books in our libraries with very explicit and sexual content. Through this journey, parents have had to dig in order to uncover and expose the truth due to the lack of transparency by both SC members and administration.
As reported last July, many parents became quite alarmed that the sentiment of the school administration was implementing for the 2021/2022 school year, a motto of “to change the hearts and minds of children”. I remember watching the DCRSD School Committee by video when a mom named Kate delivered her statement. I was struck by her words and they have resonated with me throughout these past six months, “What’s wrong with my child that you want to change her heart and her mind”?
The one thing about these communities, when problems arise everyone rallies together. Parents, caregivers and stakeholders joined forces rather quickly once the concerns were revealed. We come from different backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, but we were united and so we adopted the name ‘Charlton/Dudley United’. Our passion was routed in our need and desire to fight for the children and their futures. Our Fight – Their Future as well as the hashtag, #ForTheChildren has been our motto ever since.
What has transpired over the past ½ year is remarkable. Building a case based on fact finding information, educating ourselves all while always remaining dedicated to transparency and integrity. Knowledge is power!
From exposing the school administrations choice and lack of vetting of a “consultant and trainer” of Critical Race Theory, (CRT), to inquiring about a new reading program to researching the questionable curriculum which includes CRT and it’s overlapping subdivisions of the following:
The 1st piece of indoctrination – SEL – Social Emotional Learning which this version is the new standard and is modelled by an organization called Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning. The (CASEL) objective is very evident and while there are many children who need the “original” SEL for their special needs and learning assistance, this new framework is quite different and now is blanketing all children. The new version is the stepping stone of (CRT) and has a methodical method and the framework is quite clear. Classrooms, schools, families and caregivers then community that make up a child’s experience in that exact order. The curriculum is designed to follow this pattern for a reason. When parents are mentioned, it is only in part of the other support systems or as a negative. All examples of families used are negative emotions in the child. All positive examples are of school teachers or staff and elicit positive emotions in the child. Families are mentioned as POSSIBLE members of support along with the community. This only furthers a wedge between parents/caregivers and the child to further devalue the family unit.
CSE – Comprehensive Sex Education which replaces the normal Health Class that most families are familiar with. (CSE) is a specific type of graphic sex education. This districts library includes books that have explicit and pornographic details and pictures normalizing rape, incest, and these books are recommended by the high school librarian and some teachers. This is not about banning a book or censorship, rather what is age appropriate and goes well beyond the boundaries that minors should be exposed to.
Parents are also concerned about teachers featuring CNN as a means of learning tool to students regarding what current event topics are happening as well the high school principal’s Mr. Chaplin’s bias tweets throughout school hours, which are even featured on the district’s website. Is this what taxpayer dollars are paying for? Coincidentally, the Shepherd Hill Rams twitter account has also become a biased political stage with retweets of Mr. Chaplin’s biased tweets. This implies that this district endorses very political, controversial issues. Controversial issues that will continue to divide the families of our DCRSD community.
We continue to question both administration and school committee members at school committee meetings and through email. We receive little to no responses or cut and paste replies simply acknowledging receipt of an email. Questions posed at meetings do not receive responses at all. The DCRSD School Committee is an elected body and most members, although not all, feel they are not obligated to their constituents or the public to answer questions. They frequently will respond to the very real concerns as “it’s not under our purview” or “our attorney has advised we are under no obligation to respond”. We have literally pleaded with them to partner with parents to no avail.
What then? Who do parents contact? Where are the check and balances to keep a school district accountable and prioritizing the needs of the children of this district with quality education that aligns with the values of the families?
The process started to change when we began building a case, requesting public records and mapping out the overlapping inconsistencies that we encountered. It seemed the more we uncovered, the deeper down the rabbit hole we found ourselves.
When we compiled well over 600 pages of public records, emails, social media posts, responses, minutes, curriculum and compared that to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees Code of Ethics Policies and Procedures, which was adapted in this district on January 9, 2013, we had discovered that these members were in violation (in several ways) of the oath to which they swore.
We continued to be transparent with the School Committee and Administration even though we were not afforded the same courtesy and respect. We are often referred to as that “small group that just won’t go away” even though this “small group” is now close to 350 and growing.
Most recently, anyone attending SC meetings were mandated to wear masks, despite any local indoor mask mandate. This did not sit well with many parents. After some research, we discovered that the mandate ordering attendees to school committee meetings was done without any written policy. Even so, failure to wear a mask would result in being asked to leave by our local police officers and eventually to be escorted out of the meeting.! Through further investigation, we obtained documents to the contrary. DESE clearly states that 5 years and older and staff are “required” to wear masks except for outdoors. Visitors, however, are “expected”. When questioning the DCRSD School Committee we asked them what specific documentation they possessed that supported their mandate. Even though this is their meeting and administration are guests at their meeting, they referred our concerns to the Superintendent, Mr. Lamarche. With continued investigation we realized that a surrounding town had not made that same mandate with their public. We were puzzled as this district’s School Committee stated it was not their decision all the while we kept asking for choice we were ignored.
We received word from a neighboring town, that their district reached out with this very issue, which the response they received stated in part “OK, our expectations/wish is that all of the people in the school buildings would be masked but our authority (DESE) doesn’t stretch out to visitor’s aka public attending a municipal /3rd party function in a school building”. Additionally, we reached out to the complaint department of DESE who also stated this is a local issue. Both Dudley and Charlton do not have any local indoor mandates regarding masks. This continues the frustration of many in this district who want to be a part of the school committee meetings and have questioned why they are not given the option of choice. That is a vital option that they continue to ignore. In addition, both towns have had town meetings at these very same buildings and they do not have a mandate to attend their meetings nor police details to enforce a “mask mandate”.
DESE does not have jurisdiction over the Elected Officials that make up the School Committee. This was cemented when the majority of attendees at both Massachusetts Association Schools Superintendents ( MASS) in July 2021 and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) in early November of 2021 went mask less over the course of a 2-3 day conference. Also in attendance at this conference was Commissioner Riley, MASKLESS! Yes, the very same man who is mandating masks for our children, made a conscious and calculated decision not to wear a mask at an indoor conference with hundreds of people. Rules for thee, not for me?
Since our group, Charlton/Dudley United diligently seems to uncover the truth but yet we are dismissed at any given moment the parents, caregivers, stakeholders and taxpayers have lost the trust and confidence in this elected body. This School Committee refuses to work with the majority of their constituents leaving us no other option than to recall 5 of the 7 elected officials.
We have received confirmation that the required number of certified affidavits needed for either town recall process has been delivered to the respective Town Clerks for Charlton and Dudley. Now the public waits on certification.
In order to make change you need to reset who sits at the table. We need people in those seats that are willing to put all children’s needs first, stop trying to dismantle the family unit and partner with the community.
This all started with the motto to change the hearts and minds of children. The DCRSD administration and the DCRSD School Committee did get one thing right. The hearts and minds definitely need to be changed, but it is not the children’s hearts and minds, it is those that were entrusted with this district’s children and in charge of making sure that they are nourishing their hearts and minds with an education that will be the foundation of all they are meant to be. They are not and so it is time for change at the table.
Charlton/Dudley United will continue to stand up for those with no voice and our passion and posture on what is right for this district’s children…always
#ForTheChildren Our Fight – Their Future.