CCPS: responsive to Collier parents, despite what Parents ROCK says

Last night around 10 PM, Parents ROCK sent out an email with the subject “CCPS suggests pornographic reading – Parent WARNING!

Click here to read the email, which begins:

On May 12th, school district administration presented the school board with the Keep Learning Alive Summer 2015 Learning and Resource Guide. This guide included reading lists for all grades in CCPS. The MIDDLE SCHOOL reading list linked to, and contained a book called ‘Beautiful Bastard’ by Christina Lauren. This book is, without a doubt, pornography.”

This morning, Parents ROCK President David Bolduc issued a press release announcing a press conference today at 1 PM at the Collier County Public School (CCPS) Administration Building. It said in part:

Here are examples from a few books recommended on the [CCPS] summer reading list for as early as 6th grade!

“Beautiful Bastard” – Well, it is way too steamy for us to write, but it involves his fingers running up her thigh and into her underwear and describes a few things he does to her while there, and you will find the ‘F’ word on several pages too. Visit Parents ROCK on Facebook for a link to the highly inappropriate content and language.

“The Truth about Alice”. On page 1 it states, “Alice Franklin slept with two guys in the very same night in a bed at my house. She slept with one and then, like five minutes later, she slept with the other. And everybody knows about it…one of those guys… (Who yours truly messed around with more than once)…died in a car accident. And it is all Alice’s fault.”

Several parents are horrified their children are being exposed to this pornographic content and demanded an explanation as to why the CCPS would endorse such inappropriate material for Middle School students.

How outrageous! Our School District recommending books like these to our children??

The Parents ROCK email says, “This guide included reading lists for all grades in CCPS,” and its press release says, “Here are examples from a few books recommended on the summer reading list for as early as 6th grade!”

But that’s not accurate. The District’s reading guide only includes book recommendations for grades Pre-K to 5. I downloaded the 22-page Summer 2015 Learning and Resource Guide, and checked. Neither book appears.

Actually, I was impressed. The Guide is a wonderful document and I encourage you to review it. Its stated purpose is to help parents to:

AVOID THE SUMMER SLIDE! It is very important for students to continue to practice their academic skills even though school has closed. This “Keep Learning Alive” Learning and Resource Guide gives parents a variety of ideas to keep children practicing English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies while not in school.

Rather than recommending specific books to middle and high school parents, it offers “some helpful links to help you and your child find rich, engaging books to read this summer.” Among ten sources listed, including Best Fiction for Young Adults from the American Library Association and 2015 Summer Reading Programs from the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida, are two webpages from Goodreads: high school book lists and middle school book lists.

Goodreads is a website hosting crowd-sourced sets of book recommendations.

“Beautiful Bastard” appears on a Goodreads middle school book list titled “Best boy hates girl then loves her books.” It is tagged as “Adult Fiction > Erotica” and “Erotic Romance.” I agree with the concerned parent. This is definitely not appropriate summer reading from teenagers.

“The Truth About Alice” is tagged as “Young Adult > Teen,” “Young Adult > High School,” and “Young Adult > Coming of Age.”

Here’s the District’s explanation of what happened:

Last year we provided parents, our partners, with more than just a summer reading list. Keep Learning Alive was developed to include reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and career and technical summer activities. In this year’s version, we expanded our Keep Learning Alive Summer Learning and Resource Guide. In an effort to provide a variety and abundance of reading choices for parents and students, we provided links within our summer reading resource to several national reading websites.

A concern was brought to our attention Wednesday, May 27th about a potentially inappropriate book that was located via one of the national links. We immediately reviewed the matter and took corrective action. The district in no way encourages the reading of these inappropriate materials. These web sites were reviewed by district staff in April prior to selection and release of the reading resource. Our website had linked to a page that listed traditional middle school reading lists. At some point during the last few weeks, the website changed the available books and reading lists on this page. We have contacted the site and shared the concern about inappropriate material being available in these sections. [emphasis added]

We are now only offering parents a single Florida Department of Education approved reading resource. In this digital world, we cannot control when and how websites change their content. However, we can control how we use this content going forward and we will do that. The posted reading choice materials are provided in an effort to help our students continue their reading throughout the summer. We regret any difficulty that the link may have caused. Education is a partnership between the school district, parents, students, and community members. This is a time when this partnership worked to the benefit of our students.

Parents ROCK stated in their email that within two hours of receiving the concerned parent’s email, they took action. Two hours! That’s what I call being responsive!

But that’s not good enough for Parents ROCK. Their agenda is to find fault and criticize the Superintendent and senior School Board members, make teachers and school administrators afraid of making a mistake, and stir up fear among parents that somehow their children are not safe in our schools.

Parents ROCK chose to use this situation to rev up its base and gain media attention with an inflammatory email and press release, instead of presenting it as the District did: as an example of the successful working partnership between the District, parents, students and community members.

Parents ROCK’s agenda is a political one. It has nothing to do with what’s best for kids.

The fact that there was an inappropriate book on one of ten web resources offered to parents (NOT kids) is not what should be getting media attention.

What SHOULD be getting attention is the District’s effort to help parents help their children “avoid the summer slide” with this terrific 22-page Summer 2015 Learning & Resource Guide.

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