In response to a recent complaint from a parent about the school's showing of the films "American Beauty" and "Brokeback Mountain" in a film as literature class, District 86 released the following letter to the community:
Dear Hinsdale Township High School District 86 Community:
I’m writing today regarding a recent curriculum objection filed by the parent of a Hinsdale South senior regarding the newly reintroduced “Film as Literature” course, which is offered as an English elective that junior- and senior-level students may voluntarily choose to take in order to fulfill their graduation requirements. This course examines topics related to the adaptation of various forms of literature to film.
The selections screened during this course can contain R-rated films, which the Motion Picture Association of America suggests children under 17 to view in the presence of an accompanying parent or adult guardian. District 86 instructional policy states that no R-rated movies shall be shown to students unless prior approval is received from the building principal. More importantly, this course requires that parents of all students in this course provide informed consent through a signed permission slip confirming that their child may view each selection. Any parent who objects to a particular film selection may indicate as such and that student will be provided an alternate assignment in the course with no academic penalty. All parents of students in this class have provided informed consent by signing the permission slip that allows for their child to watch the movies identified in the syllabus of Films as Literature.
On September 12, the parent of a Hinsdale South high school senior, who had previously provided permission for his child to view all of the films listed on the “Film as Literature” course syllabus, filed a formal curriculum objection to two selections: “Brokeback Mountain” and “American Beauty.”
The District conforms with the Illinois School Code Section 10-20.8 requirements regarding instructional curriculum. This is the first time in my eight years that District 86 has received any curriculum objections.
Selections in the “Film as Literature” course were chosen based on their ability to achieve the course objectives as detailed in the syllabus provided to students and parents at the beginning of the semester. “Brokeback Mountain,” for example, addresses objectives in a unit on text adaptations. The story itself, by Annie Proulx, won multiple awards, and the screenwriters and the director made many decisions for the film that offer valuable topics for discussion. These include the genres of both romance and Western, story-to-film, cinematography, music and themes. In addition, the film helps to balance other films in the course in terms of genres, styles, time periods, themes and techniques. “American Beauty” has similar qualities. It synthesizes many cinematic elements and offers many topics and themes for study.
These films will remain on the course syllabus pending the District’s handling of the formal curriculum objection based on its Uniform Grievance Procedure as detailed in Board Policy 2:260.
Hinsdale Township High School District 86 is proud of the academic quality and integrity of the curriculum delivered in our schools. Teaching and learning in the District is continuously monitored to assure effectiveness and to enable improvement. We take parent and community concerns on this topic seriously and our handling of this matter will be conducted with the utmost professionalism and respect. Our commitment is to provide the best possible learning environment for each student and for all students to learn as much as possible in order to maximize their future opportunities.
Dr. Nicholas D. Wahl
Superintendent of Schools
Hinsdale Township H.S. District 86