A Student’s Response to “Parents’ Rights in Education” Movement

File photo from a school board meeting in West Windsor, New Jersey.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

File photo from a school board meeting in West Windsor, New Jersey.

Throughout the past few months, the Haddonfield School District’s Board of Education has been reviewing the claims concerning the elementary, middle, and high school curricula in response to the strong opinions local parents are expressing. Some parents are arguing that the current curriculum taught by the schools is unnecessary, intrusive, vulgar, and clashes with the beliefs of some families. These lessons may range from sex education in health class, discussions about race, or LGBTQIA+ history. If the Board of Education accepts their requests for change, our schools will be widely affected in many different ways. 

Haddonfield prides itself on its open-minded attitude and inclusive, diverse curriculum. It is these qualities, which many educators value, that provide a student with a well-rounded education and equal learning opportunities. However, these lessons have been threatened by parents of Haddonfield students in various Board of Education meetings. Their argument is rooted in the idea that lessons including race, sexuality, gender, and mental health are being forced upon students too young and without explicit consent from guardians. In response, parents are pushing for an “opt-out” option, which would allow students to be excused from these controversial lessons. If passed, teachers would be directly affected by this option, including Seth Friedlander, a sociology teacher at Haddonfield Memorial High School. He explained his displeasure with the situation, commenting, “You can’t opt out of real-life situations.”

Along with a push to cut certain lessons, these parents took it upon themselves to create informational pamphlets that supported their opinions on the damaging curriculum. These pamphlets were distributed to the public in an attempt to convince more parents that their claims were valid. The papers include false claims about the schools’ curricula and are misinformed about the teachings of specific topics. They state how the school is teaching “Integration of Critical Race Theory (CRT) themes, dividing children against each other based on race, while demonizing America and religion.” Critical Race Theory is not included in the current curriculum of Haddonfield schools and is primarily taught at college levels and beyond. These claims are built on false information and misconceptions.

The purpose of school is to prepare students for real-world situations. If particular lessons regarding equality and justice are cut, students could have an overwhelming disadvantage as they get older. This is why every voice matters. It is crucial that the Board of Education continues to keep meetings open to the public and provide opportunities for outside opinions to be expressed. Teachers and students will be directly affected if these curriculum changes are made, which is why student voices are the most powerful. These changes to our school are wildly influential and set the precedent for any other changes that may be made in the future. This is why it is important to continue to fight for a necessary curriculum where all students feel seen and heard.