SOUTHINGTON — Superintendent of Schools Steven Madancy responded Wednesday to ongoing media attention prompted by a Southington High School English teacher using unapproved worksheets to teach social equity and inclusion.
Madancy said the worksheets were not part of the district’s approved curriculum. He called the incident a personnel matter that remains under investigation.
The three-pages the teacher used in class presents vocabulary items, including “transgender, institutional racism, white privilege, indigenous peoples, gender pronouns and use of the term Latinx,” in addition to other topics.
The worksheet states, "Racism is a systemic issue. If you look the other way or deny that these systems exist, you are part of the problem."
The worksheet attempts to show how those terms can be used in writing and includes definitions.
Madancy’s response follows a Sept. 8 school board meeting where the worksheets were opposed by five parents and two students who said they were harmful to students. One parent described the lesson as “Critical Race Theory” and called for more policing of teachers.
Jenny Cinquemani, whose daughter brought the matter to school officials, called the worksheets “divisive.” Cinquemani said her household has members of Puerto Rican heritage and asked education officials to discuss how to talk about sensitive issues. Creating victims and oppressors is not the answer, she said.
“The unintended consequence is the teacher who put this together did not mean to be hurtful, but it is divisive,” she said. “Jim Crow laws are not so far removed from our history. There are people still alive in this country who experienced that. It is important to set some rules on how you engage in the classroom when you are touching on difficult subjects.”
She told the board whether or not these materials are vetted, “I would encourage you to look at how you approach diversity. There are ways to approach difficult conversations, and this is definitely not it. “
Madancy explained that educators need to rely on approved curriculum topics only, using carefully vetted materials, with the importance of designing and delivering lessons that align with the board’s established parameters on the teaching of controversial issues.
“It remains equally important that we continue to emphasize to our students the importance of demonstrating respect and civility when learning and/or discussing controversial topics in our classrooms,” he said. “The district will work through this, reflect, and grow from it.”
School Board Chairwoman Colleen Clark sent a letter to parents prior to the Sept. 8 meeting.
“The administration is currently investigating this incident, and as is our practice with all personnel matters, cannot comment any further at this time other than to ensure that if materials utilized were not part of our approved curriculum, progressive discipline will be applied,” the letter reads. “As we have indicated in the past, the expectation of this Board and the administration is that our teachers teach the adopted curriculum as approved by this Board. If there is ever a question as to whether a particular lesson or topic falls within the approved curriculum, interested parties may visit the curriculum portion of the Southington Public Schools website. The district has built out this section of the website and has begun posting all curriculum online for full transparency.”
School board vice chairperson Joseph Baczewski appeared on the Fox News show “Fox and Friends” Wednesday to discuss the incident.
“To be honest, I was actually very surprised,” Baczewski told the cable news network. “We weren't even in the first week of school at this point and, this was being passed out to students of one particular class."
Baczewski said the issue was handled swiftly by the administration after it was brought to their attention. He encouraged parents to be involved in their children's education.
"I think it showed that the system that we have works,” Baczewski said. “It was brought to our attention, it wasn't supposed to be there. We've essentially handled it now. And now we're going to be watching for it and making sure that this doesn't become more of an issue."