“Keep teaching! Just don’t make everything visible on Canvas,” Natalie Fallert, the 6-12 Literacy Speech Coordinator at the Rockwood School District, wrote last week in an email to English teachers. Canvas is the remote-learning platform currently used by the district.
“This is not being deceitful. This is just doing what you have done for years. Prior to the pandemic you didn’t send everything home or have it available. You taught in your classroom and things were peachy keen. We are going old-school,” Fallert added, according to the email, quoted on Wednesday by the Daily Wire investigative reporter Luke Rosiak.
Fallert’s email actually urged teachers to publish a “lean” version of the curriculum for everyone to see, while using the “original” to teach and assign to individual students, and using this approach to anything that could be “picked apart.”
After some parents got the wind of the email, however, the school district disavowed it – after a fashion. Shelley Willott, assistant superintendent of learning and support services, wrote in an email of her own that the message “was not reviewed or approved by anyone before it was sent” and that hiding anything from parents “does not reflect the mission, vision and values” of the district.
“We regret that this happened for many reasons, but mostly because it impacts the trust that is crucial for our partnership to be successful,” wrote Willott, adding that “we find the email unacceptable, and it is certainly being addressed.”
Fallert’s email was written in response to complaints from parents about a “culture and identity” lesson in English classes, which featured a book called ‘Dear Martin,’ a 2017 young adult novel dealing with racism and police violence. Lesson plans on the book include “discussions on racial profiling, civil disobedience and affirmative action,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which framed the story as a “culture struggle over equity and race.”
The Post-Dispatch described the furor over the email as a clash between parents who claim Rockwood is pushing “social justice and equity ideals that amount to a Marxist takeover of schools,” and those who believe the educators should “counteract racism and build more equitable communities.”
District spokesperson Mary LaPak told the paper that Rockwood is moving forward with a curriculum in line with the “educational equity resolution” approved last year, which aims to identify “conscious and unconscious biases” and eliminate “barriers to educational achievement.”
Following a heated school board election earlier this month, Rockwood Schools superintendent Mark Miles announced he would be retiring at the end of the school year, after just two years on the job. The district’s director of “educational equity and diversity” is also stepping down, after just one year in the post.
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