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Southington school leader defends teacher who used vocab sheet featuring inclusive terms

The Connecticut Mirror 9/23/2022 The Connecticut Mirror

Officials with Southington Public Schools say they support a high school English teacher who used a vocabulary list featuring language highlighting inclusivity – a list that’s generated concern from some parents.

The vocabulary list included terms like cisgender, transgender and white privilege.

Some parents who gathered at a rally Thursday night say those terms shouldn’t be taught in the classroom.

“We should be taught math, and English and social studies,” said Mary Barbagallo, a Southington resident. “But in a regular English room, teaching English, this teacher had no right to bring in her own material.”

Superintendent Steven Madancy said that while the materials the teacher used were not approved by the district, the teacher had no ill intent.

“All of our teachers and this teacher do their best to put their best foot forward for our students every day,” he said. “I’m committed to supporting this teacher moving forward and all our teachers.”

Saying, “This has been an unfortunate distraction for all of us,” Southington Superintendent of Schools Steven Madancy spoke to the media before the Southington Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Sept. 22. “We want parents to know that their children are in a safe and inclusive learning environment,” he said, “And we must not rush to judgment. We should support and respect our teachers and their dedication to our students.” © Provided by The Connecticut Mirror Saying, “This has been an unfortunate distraction for all of us,” Southington Superintendent of Schools Steven Madancy spoke to the media before the Southington Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Sept. 22. “We want parents to know that their children are in a safe and inclusive learning environment,” he said, “And we must not rush to judgment. We should support and respect our teachers and their dedication to our students.”

Madancy is recommending that educators teaching content about complex issues be given additional professional development.

In a letter, Madancy said issues surrounding the vocabulary list were causing stress, “especially our teachers, staff and students.”

“This has been an unfortunate distraction for all of us and we will not debate this in the media, or on social media,” he wrote. “We want parents to know that their children are in a safe and inclusive learning environment, and we must not rush to judgment. We should support and respect our teachers and their dedication to our students.”

The English teacher received support earlier this week from professors at Southern Connecticut State University. They sent a letter to Southington school leaders, saying that the teacher’s worksheet “provides simple straightforward characterizations of concepts” and that concerns about the worksheet amounted to a “politically motivated attack on free speech.”

Some community members have said that the vocabulary sheet is a part of teaching critical race theory. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund defines critical race theory as “an academic framework that examines the impact of systemic racism on American society.” It’s used in professional and academic research.

Madancy said the district has maintained all along that it does not teach critical race theory.

“It’s not a part of our curriculum or anywhere within it,” Madancy said. “It’s a higher academic framework that’s used by institutions like universities that’s well beyond K-12 public education. There’s absolutely no relevance to CRT whatsoever with the materials in these documents.”

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