'Highly Controversial' Movies Being Shown in Class Has D86 Parent Concerned
Several members of the the District 86 Board of Education said they'd support having a discussion on the board's role in approving movies after a Hinsdale South dad voiced concern over the use of "American Beauty" and "Brokeback Mountain" in a Film as Lit
Several members of the District 86 Board of Education said they want to have a formal discussion at their next meeting about the board’s role in approving curriculum materials after a Hinsdale South parent voiced concern at Monday night’s meeting over two R-rated movies being shown in one of his son’s classes.
Burr Ridge resident and father of two Victor Casini said he was shocked when he looked at his son’s Film as Literature course syllabus recently and saw that students in the class would be viewing, among other films, “American Beauty” and “Brokeback Mountain.”
Casini called the two films “highly controversial” for their sexual imagery and obscenity.
“There are thousands of movies that could be utilized to achieve the teaching objective without venturing into this area that has a good number, if not a majority, of parents upset,” Casini said on the phone Friday.
At Monday’s meeting, Casini said high school kids these days are “relentlessly bombarded” with such material throughout their day-to-day lives and that schools should be a place where controversial issues are not ignored, but presented responsibly.
“We should choose texts and films that fairly address controversial issues, but do so in ways that inspire and edify and point students in the direction of truth and motivation,” he said.
Casini said he had not seen the course syllabus prior to or during class registration. If he had, he said, he would not have let his son take the class.
Now several weeks into the school year, Casini said, "We're in a no-win situation."
The Film as Literature class, according to district officials, is open to both juniors and seniors.
Board members did not take any direct stances on the two movies in question beyond Jennifer Planson's point that 16-year-old juniors in the class would not be allowed to see the R-rated films in a theater on their own. Three members did, however, say they want to have a discussion of the board’s role in approving non-textbook curricular materials like movies.
“This board every year approves textbooks,” said board member Richard Skoda, who asked that a discussion item be placed on the next board meeting’s agenda. “And if we are responsible for approving textbooks, we are also responsible for approving additional materials that are brought in, and movies.”
Kay Gallo said in addition to movies, summer reading books and non-textbook reading materials are also items that the board should discuss having approval rights over.
Planson said, “I think that’s a good discussion to have.”
The next board meeting is Sept. 24 at Hinsdale Central. Casini said he’s contacted a lot of fellow parents who were as shocked to hear about the films as he was, and he said he expects more to show up at that meeting.
Agendas for District 86 board meetings typically are released the Friday before the meeting.