Beloved Music Teacher at Draper Park Middle School for being required to teach the Social Emotional Learning program "Second Step" (shared with permission). They didn't even give his last 2 weeks:
My Dear DPMS families,
This is a difficult email to write.
I have given notice to the School and District of my resignation. I will be leaving Draper Park Middle School within the next two school weeks. This has been a heart-rending decision. I love working with your children, watching them grow and develop. I will miss being with them very much.
I know that this will come as a surprise. It has come as a surprise to me and my family. I intended to be at DPMS for years to come. Unfortunately the social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, “Second Step” was rolled out to Draper Park MS this year. Because I felt uncomfortable when our Admin announced that we would be implementing this program, I spent time reviewing the lessons, videos, teacher scripts, and student handouts from unit 1 for 7th grade curriculum, which is what I would be teaching. The more I watched and read, the more uncomfortable I became.
As a rule, I think that most people will agree that the skills, which the Second Step curriculum is supposed to teach students, are good and helpful. But way that these skills are presented in the Second Step Curriculum is concerning enough to me that I cannot, in good conscience, present the material to my students; material which teaches students that their parents are “roadblocks” to their goals; material which contains propaganda, and encourages students to become activists, among other things. I am especially uncomfortable with the anti-family undertone I have found find in the “Second Step” curriculum (particularly regarding the relationship between the students and their parents, which the curriculum occasionally calls “other generations”.) I am very concerned that this is in our schools.
I shared a detailed list of my concerns with our school Administration, who referred the issue to School Performance at the District level. At every level of interaction with school and district administrators I was treated better than I expected to be. (Parenthetically, Dr. Watts is perhaps the finest, most evenhanded administrator that I have had the pleasure to work with. His hands are tied in this situation. But even so, he has done more than I deserve to support me as we wrestled through this issue. We are fortunate to have him at Draper Park Middle.) My concerns were listened to, and a group at the district have taken the time to look at the relevant content to understand my concerns. Unfortunately, in the end, district personnel kindly told me that that my concerns are unfounded, and that I was seeing what I was “looking for”. They further indicated that the program, as applied in other schools through the district, is working well and helping achieve what they want. I was told that, as a teacher in the district, I am required to teach the concepts from the provided “Second Step” curriculum.
As a kind of compromise, I was offered some small flexibility in the way that I teach the material to the students, as guided an assigned district personnel. But having someone else tell me what I have to teach from a curriculum, which I believe doesn’t belong in the school, is even less appealing than the alternative.
I have advocated for total transparency of the curriculum for parent review, and an opt-out option for parents who are uncomfortable with the course. Because “Second Step” is a copyrighted program requiring a purchased license to access the content, parents can only review the lessons being taught to their students by going into the district office and having district personnel show it to them. No opt-out option will be offered.
I don’t expect all of you to agree with my decision, or that, given the same material to review, you would all feel reason for concern. But I hope that you will understand why I have felt the need to resign: that I cannot teach content to your children that I believe is harmful.
I also want you to know that I have not shared, and will not share, all that I am sharing with you with my students. I do not want to influence your children’s perception of the school, the “Second Step” program, or give them preconceptions about things which might make their time at the school more difficult or stressful. I will tell them that I was asked by the district to do something that I couldn’t do with a clear conscience, but will indicate that I have written to you with more detail so that you can share as much or as little of my concerns as you feel is appropriate.
I hope that you, and your children, will think kindly of me as we part ways. I have tried all that I know to find an acceptable solution which would allow me to stay. I wish all of you, your students, the school and the choir program all the best.
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