CITIZEN ACTION PACKET: GIVEN OUT AT APRIL 1 MEETING IN OAK MEADOW BAPTIST CHURCH
*This document should be seen as a work in progress -- we will be improving it as we go along. If you want to join what is going on, like us on Facebook and contact the administrators there, comment below here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
DEALING WITH SCHOOL CURRICULUM
Table of Contents
1. Purpose 3
2. Open Records Requests and Complaints 5
3. Sending Letters to Officials 7
4. How to Find Out Address for Officials 9
5. Contacting Religious Groups 9
6. Going Public 11
7. An example of an op-ed 12
8. A counter-curriculum: Learning More in 12 weeks 14
9. Sexual Health Advisory Councils 15
10. Complaint Process 16
11. “Trojan Horse,” by Bonnie Pritchett 23
STATEMENT FROM MASS RESISTANCE TEXAS
Both the ethics and religious liberty of families are at stake when we discuss school curriculum in Texas. There are also clear reasons apart from religious doctrine for parents to be concerned when heavily sexual and controversial content is introduced into school curriculum.
Even the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child has stipulated that educational choices should respect the childrearing goals of parents, wherever possible. While many people have objections to parts of this Declaration, note Article 3 as it was ratified in 1990:
1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.
3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
For Christians, this imperative is enhanced by the orders of Mark 9:42, which states, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Christian parents consider that their children’s proper guidance toward adulthood should not involve the encouragement of behavior that the Bible shows us is dysfunctional, sinful, or self-harming. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 13:11 there is a distinction between the activities appropriate to children versus adults: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.”
In multiple districts across the state of Texas, Christian parents have noted with great concern that elementary schools are providing increasingly controversial content to young children, including content that promotes practices at odds with the Bible: homosexuality (clearly deemed harmful in Romans 1:26-27), same-sex parenting (a violation of the commandment, “thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother” in Exodus 20:12), same-sex marriage (a violation of the sacred union defined by Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:4-6), and transgenderism (a practice of replacing one’s God-given sex with the opposite sex or a new sex of recent contrivance, in conflict with Genesis 1-2 and Deuteronomy 22:5.)
Children spend many hours a day in school; for some parents, more hours during a workday than the child spends with his/her mother and father. For most parents, church service occurs weekly. There exists the real danger that constant reinforcement of homosexuality, same-sex parenting, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism, from teachers, peers, administrators, the media, and society’s leaders could drown out the proper Biblical teaching by Christian parents.
Reports from teachers and parents at the district level by 2016 show strong grounds for concern and action. Objectionable content was being foisted onto schoolchildren, through surreptitious means that skirted the generally accepted principle that Texan parents should be notified if the school will be requiring students to learn about sexual content. Texas Education Code 28.004 provides for the establishment of SHACs, or School Health Advisory Councils, which are supposed to moderate sexual education in favor of parental discretion and sound traditional values. See Section 9.
Under the classification of “anti-bullying” or “social and emotional learning,” teachers in some district were being unadvisedly compelled to undergo pedagogical training in content that they could not countenance, on basic disciplinary grounds, because the material did not appear grounded in well-established research. Teachers and parents like Caryl Ayala and Sharon Armke also knew much of the material would conflict with moral and religious convictions held by parents. A major role in such programs has been played by the Human Rights Campaign, a politically driven organization with a long history of unethical action and inaccurate statements toward those who disagree with them on human sexuality.
The Southern Baptists of Texas, through its Ethic & Religious Liberty Committee, published an extensive report on these problems in January 2017, authored by Bonnie Pritchett (see Section 11.) Their expose was the culmination of many months of research by ethicists seeking to understand what changes might be imposed upon the curriculum in elementary schools and where this curriculum might pose ethical and religious-liberty challenges. Members of MassResistance were briefed on the findings in that article shortly after its publication. We committed to organizing parents so that they could take action to prevent the problematic trends in the article from advancing without resistance.
The result of these multiple events was the planning of the April 1, 2017, meeting in Oak Meadows Baptist Church. Our objectives here are:
· To provide information and guidance to parents, citizens, and churches so they can respond when sexually inappropriate curriculum appears to be finding its way into local schools.
· To assist in networking so that like-minded parents, citizens, and churches across Texas can connect with each other and offer mutual assistance in responding to the encroachment of problematic curriculum in schools.
· To complement the effort by activist groups like Texas Values, the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee, and other associations, which have sought to advance legislation improving the safety of public changing areas and restrooms.
· To offer paths of principled resistance when school curriculum is being used improperly to advance adult agendas such as same-sex marriage, which do not bear upon the mission of Texas schools to instruct children in reading, writing, arithmetic, and other basic skills.
School curriculum is very difficult to address because decisions are often made at very local levels, even down to a principal or vice principal, and there are many instances in which curriculum is implemented without parents, officials, or the community being made aware. Parents must usually be active in finding out about new curriculum or activities being implemented, and at which stages.
Section 9 describes SHACs, or Sexual Health Advisory Councils, which are one means by which parents can actively ask for and have a right to receive timely information about new material being added to students’ curriculum.
If you want to find out whether there is any problematic curriculum being introduced into schools, be mindful of two additional avenues if you find that casual requests for information do not produce sufficient results:
· Open-records requests
Texas state law and local districts have varying rules that allow citizens to ask for information. These rules are obviously far more pertinent for public schools since the actions by the schools are a matter of public interest. You may have to work from lower levels, such as your local school district office, up toward county offices or state offices. It is important that you word requests very carefully. Usually it is helpful if you have documentation of previous attempts to get information from a lower level so that you can tell the office that you are contacting, “I have sought information but still require further clarification and documentation.”
Below is a message sent by an experienced lawyer and policy advocate about how to proceed with this:
Following up on my promise, I have provided this link to the AISD website regarding the procedures for making an open-records request. When you google Open Records Requests AISD, for example, you end up with a long list of school district websites and the instructions for submitting the request.
The trick will be to craft the request so that it captures the information we are seeking.
Chapter 552 of the Government Code, Open Records, does not require a school district to create a record, but does require it to provide copies of existing documents on the subject of interest.
Here's my first crack at language for the request:
"Please provide a copy of any and all communications between the principal, superintendent, school board and teachers and any representatives of the Human Rights Campaign regarding any instructional materials provided by that organization for use in your schools, and provide a copy of any and all instructional materials relating to the Welcoming Schools curriculum and Mindfulness training for teachers and indicate what grade levels are presented this material." https://www.austinisd.org/communications/txpubinfoact
The language above may provide a starting point but please know that you may want to phrase your request as broadly as possible. For instance, you may not want to limit your request to only the Human Rights Campaign or Welcoming Schools, since there might also be other programs introduced with similarly troubling content.
The key here is to request information that would have been recorded on a pre-existing document, since the school district will not be required by law to generate anything new, such as a list. Here are some important points that you should consider including:
a. Communications or any record of communications by the school districts’ employees with outside entities that have been contracted or engaged in any way with the purpose of introducing new curriculum into the school, including anything relating to homosexuality, gender identity, transgenderism, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, sexual practices, etc.
b. Any subject matter such as lesson plans or curriculum planning documents that relate to the introduction of homosexuality, gender identity, etc., into the instruction or activities provided by the school district.
c. Any notices, schedules, sign-in sheets, or agendas relating to training required of teachers, employees, or community partners, with the purpose of determining how issues like homosexuality, gender identity, sexual practices, transgenderism, etc., will be provided to children as part of the school district’s capacity.
d. Any records that demonstrate whether personnel decisions or disciplinary actions have been made on the basis of whether teachers, students, or staff support or do not support curriculum relating to homosexuality, transgenderism, sexual practices, etc.
e. Any financial records detailing agreements about how funding to the school district carries obligations about dealing with subject matter related to homosexuality, transgenderism, sexual practices, gender identity, etc.
f. Any schedules, notices, reports, or planning documents that demonstrate extracurricular activities organized on campus grounds or with funds earmarked to the school district, relating to students’ sharing opinions or experiences about sexual orientation, gender identity, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, etc.
There are other types of documents that you may feel inclined to request. The above list is only a beginning guide. Be prepared for a fair amount of back-and-forth, as the officials receiving your request respond. If there are documents they claim they do not need to disclose, their declining to turn over such documents can be incorporated into your document requests to other offices.
Below is guidance from an advocate for parents’ rights in Texas (form enclosed in Section 10):
Also, another thing that parents can do is find out what the grievance process is in their school districts and follow that. Once the replies from the school districts are received back, then those can be utilized to show attorneys and legislators the responses that schools are giving the parents. This is the one for AISD.
Sending Letters to Officials
If you are disturbed by things going on in local schools, you may choose to be aggressive and collect like-minded people who wish to apply pressure to officials, or you may choose to be diplomatic and work pleasantly to ask for community input to be heeded.
Either way, you will need to have established a written record of your expression of concern and/or request for action. Nobody can answer to your concerns unless you have expressed them directly to them, and this means most often doing so in writing so there is a record.
The First Amendment of the United States includes your right to petition the government to redress grievances. People generally extend the generous rights guaranteed in that Amendment to include your right to make known your displeasure or concern to other people in society without fearing retaliation. This does not mean that you can be rude or make irresponsible accusations without expecting a response that’s just as rude or irresponsible. It is important to strike the right tone.
The first thing you should do is determine who’s most directly responsible for the trend that is worrying you. You want to be on record expressing your concern to the person immediately responsible, and then work your way up if you find that no action is taking place. It is wise to first give people a reasonable timeframe to respond to your letter before taking it to a higher authority or going public with it. Send letters to officials with as few “CC” parties as possible, and it is never a good idea to email officials with people in the Blind Carbon Copy field. Not only do you risk being directed into a Spam filter, but you can be perceived as dishonest or harassing if you seem to be trying to embarrass officials.
If the responses to your private messages are lackluster or dismissive, then you may increasingly open up communications with more CCs and even open letters posted online. You are within your rights to move higher in the chain of authority and to bring the matter to the public’s attention. But you have to have given officials the chance to respond before you “escalate” the situation. Generally if you CC someone’s supervisor or boss, this is viewed as an aggressive and threatening act, which you should really only do if you have made due attempts and have not received attention.
Your local community will have particular offices. Before you send your first letter, you will have to do some digging to find out who the proper addressee is. If you have access online, you will want to start with simple Google searches. If you do not have internet access, you should start by calling information and asking for the phone number of public offices. You have to play hit and miss quite a bit to get your concerns met. Below are some typical offices that you may contact, in order of proper progression:
1) The teacher who brought improper content into dealings with students.
2) The principal of the school
3) The superintendent of the school district
4) The Board of Education of the community, town, city or county
5) County elected officials
6) State Senate and House Representative serving in the Texas legislature (make sure that you address your senator or house representative)
7) The Texas State Department of Education
8) Attorney General of Texas
9) The Governor of Texas
10) Your Texas Senator or Representative in the United States Congress in Washington DC
11) Betsy DeVos and the federal Department of Education
Make sure to save copies of everything you have sent and all the responses you have received. Below are examples of letters reflecting varying letters of concern:
Dear Ms. Garcia,
I am writing to express concern about materials that my daughter Jane brought home from school last week. Apparently she was handed a booklet that described homosexual relationships. Jane told me she was asked to share her thoughts on love between boys and between girls, and she felt pressured to say positive things in front of the other second-graders. Our family does not wish this type of discussion to be forced onto Jane during school hours, when her learning should be restricted to academic matters appropriate to the school’s educational purposes. Please let me know by Friday of next week or so, whether you’ve received this and how we can work together so that you are not prevented from doing your job but my family’s ethical teachings are not jeopardized. I would like to sit down and discuss this more in depth.
Dear Ms. Fletcher,
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Irving Taylor, and my son Philip is currently enrolled in Anyplace Elementary. For several months he has been asked to study and take quizzes on material described as “Social and Emotional Learning,” which includes the requirement that he state approval of homosexuality. I do not feel that this situation is appropriate. Previous attempts to find a solution with Philip’s teachers, the principal, and the local Board of Education have not been effective. Therefore I respectfully contact you as my state representative. I hope that you can respond and we can schedule some kind of meeting or conversation, between your office and the parents in our district who are concerned, so that we can be advised of proper channels to follow in order to ensure that this inappropriate instruction cease. My phone number is ------- and my email address is the one indicated in the sender field. If I could receive a response by next week, I would be most appreciateive.
Dear Ms. DeVos,
As Secretary of the Department of Education of the United States America, you should know that parents across Texas have been attempting to resolve their concerns about inappropriately sexual curriculum in our elementary schools. Please direct us to the proper people in your office, whom we can contact, to request federal involvement in this issue. I have gathered a team of two dozen parents who have attempted to resolve this at local and state levels with no success. We would be happy to share our information with you and find out what we can do. I enclose here several times next week when I will be available if someone from your office can call me at ----------. Otherwise, in replying to this email, you could direct me to someone who could schedule some conference calls with the concerned parents.
How to Find Out Addresses to Send Letters
Different levels of governance may use different names for people who are responsible for receiving and responding to your letters. Some may call such a person an ombudsman or communications director, or it might simply be a secretary or receptionist. Note that even if you address your letter to an official, it is usually someone in the office who will screen the letter. Therefore you want to sound professional and be courteous with anyone who speaks to you over the phone.
A little legwork prior to sending letters will help ensure that your letter is going to the right office. Here are some tips:
· Start with Google, if you are on the Internet. Type in the search field the basic question, “whom do I contact about problems with GGG Elementary School?” or “whom do I contact in the Texas State Governor’s Office about Education?”
· If you are not on the Internet, just start with calling Information. Ask for a number based on what you think its listing might be, such as, “Can I have the phone number for the department of education, public contact?”
· Be persistent. Whichever website you find through Google, search the website for “contact us” or “staff” listings so you can find out what people’s titles are. Without being annoying, if you get someone to answer the phone and it is clearly the wrong office, ask them to direct you to the proper office. At some point you want to confirm an address to which you can send your letter. Read back the address so you know it is spelled correctly.
Getting Religious Leaders Involved
Religious leaders can play a crucial role in curriculum intervention for several reasons. One reason is that they are bound by doctrinal texts that grant them clear authority to intervene if people are exposing children to false or wrong teaching. Another reason is that the First Amendment, while legally disputed, provides protection to religious families but often according to a litmus test. For the religious freedom clause to be exercised, a claimant must often demonstrate that the religious principle in question is a “deeply held” conviction. Statements by religious leaders offer both general social support and also possibly helpful legal precedent when citizens are trying to counter troubling school curriculum.
The problem with religious leaders is that you cannot necessarily rely on their help with issues such as homosexuality, transgenderism, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, and sexual practices. The lobbies like the Human Rights Campaign and the Southern Poverty Law Center have spent large budgets on trying to win over religious leaders. The politically sensitive nature of these issues makes many religious authorities hesitant. There is often a bureaucracy that thwarts citizens from getting a substantial statement from religious leaders.
You should first approach leaders in your church. Failing at that level, you may try to contact authorities at the state level. Below are some of the religious bodies whom you may want to alert to what is happening. If they cannot issue a statement of support right away, they may be prompted to gather more information and issue such a statement later. Oftentimes they can lend you resources such as meeting spaces, free use of printers or office supplies, or introductions to important community people, behind the scenes even if they are reluctant to take a stance.
Because churches are governed by strict laws banning political campaigns from the pulpit, some resistance you encounter may not stem from a refusal to uphold doctrine. It can be a matter of legal liability and the fear of being sued. Having said that, you may decide that you want to push the church to be more explicit in supporting its own doctrines.
Below are some religious councils or institutes that you can contact. If they cannot help you immediately, you may ask them to direct you to someone who is in a position to proffer substantial support.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TXCatholic/
The Southern Baptist Convention of Texas
4500 State Highway 360 • Grapevine, TX 76051
Agudath Israel of America (national)
General information: email@example.com
Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
7900 E. Highway 290, Austin, TX 78724
Public Affairs Department
Joseph Smith Memorial Building
P: (801) 240-2205
15 E. South Temple Street Room 2W10 Salt Lake City, UT 84150
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
P: (801) 240-1000
50 East North Temple Street Salt Lake City, UT 84150 United States
Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church:
Paula Arnold, Director of Communications
713-521-9383 ext. 326
April Canik, Associate Director of Journalism
Cross Connection Contact ext. 315
Brant Mills, Associate Director of Media
713-521-9383 ext. 339
Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (National)
ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians
5638 Hollister Ave. Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117
(855) ECO-ECO8 (855.326.3268)
Dana Allin, Synod Executive: x101
Kim Davis, Assistant to the Synod Executive: x408
Nate Dreesmann, Executive Director of Ecclesiastical Support x104
Maja Greig, Assistant to the Director of Ecclesiastical Support Executive x103
John Terech, Executive Director of Operations: x401
Patty Terech, Assistant to the Director of Operations: x203
Emily Day, Director of Communications x204
There is always the possibility that elected officials, church leaders, and community partners will not want to help you with school curriculum. Many people are afraid of being attacked by activists, while others will view you as the problem because they agree with activists that children should be trained to think about sex in these ways you find problematic. Even many religious people may have already decided that you are wrong.
One way of escalating your campaign is to seek public attention. In order to get the attention of the general public, generally you have to be willing to expose yourself to public scrutiny, which can be brutal. While you may wish to leave comments online in forums or under articles, using a pseudonym to protect yourself, this is very limited in its impact. People do not take pseudonyms seriously, for good reason—the public has no way to know if you are who you say you are. Also, people tend not to show as much respect to people who are unwilling to place their name behind their beliefs.
Private listserves and secret Facebook groups can help for brainstorming, but the problem is that there may still be countless people who agree with you, who do not know you are like-minded.
You may try to call into radio shows, which can sometimes land you a golden opportunity to be heard. (For instance, Caryl Ayala got her message to many people by appearing on an Austin radio show.) You may also want to send “press releases” to local radio or TV stations to let journalists know that you are willing to be interviewed. Typically this would coincide with an event such as a public meeting or forum, so there is a reason the journalist will want to cover the story. MassResistance Texas can help with drafting press releases.
You can start a blog or Facebook page. Blogger.com offers free blogging capacities and it is easy to use.
Inevitably to jump-start your calls for public attention, you will have to consider submitting opinion-editorials signed by your real name. Prepare yourself for what will result from such a publication. Activists are likely to look up your home address and workplace. They will not refrain from contacting your workplace and family and friends. Also, the activists will have no problem engaging in attacks behind the protection of pseudonyms, abusing your forthrightness. In the United States libel laws favor free speech and the threshold for counting as a “public figure” is very low, so even if people lie about you online you have few recourses to fight back.
If your family is prepared for such a backlash and you feel confident in your job, you may consider submitting opinion editorials to local papers. MassResistance Texas can help you with this process if you contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our Facebook page.
Example of Opinion-Editorial
Step 1: First make sure you understand the submission guidelines for the newspaper or journal to which you are submitting your editorial. Editors receive large numbers of submissions and will eliminate your column immediately if you have disregarded the word-limit or if your work is shabby.
Step 2: Identify the email address to which you will send your opinion-editorial. It is always best if there is an individual who is responsible for this area of opinion. You will attach the op-ed in the email or as a document attachment depending on the newspaper’s guidelines. But you will have a very brief note to the editor telling them you are submitting the op-ed.
Step: 3 Write your op-ed. Make sure it is clear and directed. Be brutal about trimming down anything that isn’t needed and make sure your tone is professional. For example:
Sexual Education Isn’t Right for Kindergarten
I am sad to learn that now Anywhere Integrated School District will be requiring third-graders to learn about homosexuality. On March 15, the Anywhere Bulletin published, “Anti-Bullying Efforts Heightened in Anywhere,” by Jane Smith. Ms. Smith appeared to have a positive reaction to the announcement from school officials that a new initiative against bullying will include positive beliefs about homosexual activity.
Children in third grade are too young to have experienced sexual feelings so most of this material will be confusing or suggestive. At any rate, children need to be taught generally to treat each other well, regardless of what identities peers have taken for themselves. The response to an aggressive or mean-spirited student is not to make the entire school deal with controversial sexual practices. If anything, a bullied child will now feel pressure to attribute his experience as a victim to sexual impulses inside him, which may not exist and which might never develop without the curriculum planting such ideas in his head.
Parents should not be complacent about changes such as this. It is important that education leaders re-examine these curriculum choices, and for the next election to the Board of Education we need to pose direct questions about this curriculum to candidates.
Step #4: Once you have edited your op-ed and had other people proofread it, now you need to draft a quick sentence for the note to the editor. For example:
Dear Ms. Casey,
I am submitting the enclosed editorial objecting to the recent announcement of a new sexual education curriculum in Anywhere. Thank you for your time and consideration. I can be contacted at……
When you begin to resist improper school curriculum, you should anticipate a great deal of pushback. Much of this pushback will involve debate, and you might be overwhelmed by people who claim to speak with unquestioned authority.
In order to equip citizens with counter-arguments, MassResistance Texas is developing a free 12-week curriculum, which will be available by June 1, 2017, at
For easy podcasts to educate yourself, you can always go to http://cogwatchpodcast.blogspot.com. This is CogWatch, a series on many topics about gender and sexuality, recorded by two scholars who were raised in the LGBT community and can offer sound information that often gets suppressed elsewhere.