We’ve been hearing a lot about free speech at school board meetings. Apparently the first amendment gives us the right to say anything we want, to whomever we want, about whomever we want, whether it’s true or not, right? Stopping anyone from saying anything at all is (gasp!) cancel culture. Yikes. God forbid we ask people to be truthful. (Warning: Sarcasm ahead #notsorry) So here’s the thing…
Just because you are legally allowed to say something…doesn’t mean that you should.
As parents, we punish our kids for telling lies, and we also frown upon lies of omission. Yet here we are, listening to grown adults at our school board meetings saying things that are not only wrong but downright slanderous, and usually aimed at our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Mr. Justin Brown. Where we used to bring recurring personnel problems to their supervisor to be dealt with in private, and hopefully fixed, now we are just pointing fingers and yelling at them in public, over and over again, without even making sure it is the truth first. Who cares, we have the first amendment, right?
A curriculum that is Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive? No way?!
The first complaint last Wednesday at our board meeting was regarding Director Brown’s involvement in curriculum. The commenter stated “I found him to be a charming fellow; however that does not negate the fact that he lacks the qualifications to be in a position of influence over the district’s curriculum. His presence on the curriculum committee brings into question whether the district is choosing curriculum based on ideology rather than on educational quality.”
An involved parent of West Pikeland addressed this in her follow up comment. She knows Mr. Brown and his actual job description well because she is an active member of the DEI Task Force and the committee that plans Jewish American Heritage Month. She said that during their meetings “We were talking about the potential of including some Jewish figures in the curriculum and he actually passed me over to Dr. Chance, who is responsible for the curriculum” so that they can discuss as a group.
Director Brown is not on the curriculum committee.
Whether the original commenter was consciously lying or just mistaken is irrelevant. When you make an accusation you should at the very least make a good faith effort to know what you are talking about. Yes, it is true that curriculum is not his background, but it is also not his primary job, and he’s in no way the authority on DASD curriculum. There have not even been any curriculum changes made since he was hired (besides Wit and Wisdom, which he had nothing to do with.)
What is is job anyway?
- Part of Mr. Brown’s job is to advise on curriculum or lesson plans when DEI related gaps are found.
- He does not get final say on either things. They are team efforts full of necessary checks and balances.
What is a curriculum? What’s a lesson plan?
It’s painfully clear that most people in the district who are throwing these accusations around not only don’t understand Mr. Brown’s job, they also don’t understand the complexities of choosing a new curriculum (done at the district level, to satisfy standards set at the state and federal levels) vs creating lesson plans (done by teachers). Below we share a helpful YouTube tutorial so you can start to learn the differences between these terms…with a giant disclaimer that you can’t learn it all in 2 minutes and 51 seconds. That’s why our educators go to school for these things. #obvi
A revolution of…Equality? Oh, the Horror!
The next set of falsehoods were those of omission and misinterpretation regarding Mr. Brown’s book, UGH!?! Not Another Diversity Book.
Accusation #1: Challenging those “deeply held beliefs”
The commenter claims that “His primary motivation for working with a young captive audience of school-aged children is to reshape their values, attitudes and deeply held beliefs to fit a very different view of the world than they received from their parents.”
We’d like to know more about these “deeply held beliefs” that everyone keeps alluding to. Could the parents with these deeply held beliefs please be more specific? What is it about his belief system that is so very different from theirs? Do most people agree with them, or is it simply a very loud group of 15 families out of 13,000?
Accusation #2: Enlisting our children in a revolution!
She continues “Mr. Brown makes some rather polarizing and provocative statements. Some quotes from his book:
We need to make a legacy and you can only make a legacy once there’s revolution. Revolution can only be created once people are inspired.Justin Brown
Many parents in the district do not consent to their children being down for Mr. Brown’s revolution.”
What do we think this “revolution” is going to be…is it the Downingtown equivalent of Dumbledore’s army? Again, we are left wondering what some families are really afraid of. Specifics would be very helpful.
Accusation #3: Creating an equal playing field
Finally, she reads from his book:
We have to be able to make sure that our perception is equal. We need to meet each other on an equal playing field so that our realities can almost sync up.Justin Brown
and states that “Clearly Mr. Brown would like to lead students to a set of pre-selected beliefs that align with his goal.”
His goal? What makes certain parents think that Director Brown is the only person in DASD with the goal of achieving an equal playing field? He was hired for his expertise and his methods because this benefits ALL children and sets them up for success later in life. If that takes “inspiring children to have equal perceptions and have more closely synchronized realities” then we say Go for it. We are Down for that.
“The quotes that we were hearing are taken out of context, but also starting from a position of equity is actually a really great thing because we have a lot of people in our community who aren’t playing from the same spot in the field. So I really hope that we’ll continue to embrace that as a community. I’m not Christian but I know that Christian values talk about valuing your neighbor and sometimes you’ve got to see things from their perspective in order to do that; this may not be something you’re learning how to do home but our schools are meant to teach us a global view of the world and I appreciate the fact that you continue to do that.”
Our verdict (for what it’s worth to you…)
If these are the worst quotes that can be shared from Mr. Brown’s book (full disclosure, we haven’t read it yet, but we plan to) we are not that concerned.
Preliminary internet searching tells us that:
- It got 4.6/5 stars from 25 reviews on Amazon
- It is used in multiple college courses, the kind of courses that are required at public institutions in certain majors.
We wonder if the parents who are so concerned about Mr. Brown and his Downingtown Army are also going to micromanage what colleges and majors their children choose after graduation.
Is complaining during public comment session off limits? Hells, no!
Contrast these personal attacks with the incredibly sad story shared by the first commenter. His family had clearly been through quite a lot with their first child at Downingtown East, and they have two more children entering high school this year. They did not name the teachers who had contributed to their struggles, and what they shared might inspire other families with similar problems to come forward to administration. By finding common pain points, we could maybe move the needle toward solving them. This is how public comment sessions can be used constructively. We hope this family sees something positive come out of their story.
Stop it. Just…Stop. It!
There is no reason to publicly slander a specific educator. The law may force us to listen to it, but it is still wrong and, let’s be honest, pretty childish to keep doing it over and over again. If Director Brown were truly guilty of any misconduct, we would have seen some changes by now. The fact that he is still here shows that:
- Our administration believes in him; and
- Most of us understand that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs are critical to ensure that students of all kinds have a safe and positive learning environment
Enough is enough. Let the good Director Brown do his job. Your remarks simply prove how badly we need his position.
Call to action!
If you have a problem with a specific educator, please raise those concerns to them privately. If you cannot solve it with them, we encourage you to then reach out to administration. If you can make no headway and you want to warn other families of these problems, public comment is totally valid (although using names…really not cool.)
Also, if you want to actually be taken seriously during public comment, you may want to know more about how things are done in DASD. One way to do this would be to volunteer on your HSA, the Equity Task Force, the Wellness Committee, Communities that Care, or any number of the task forces that we have here at DASD Parent Partners. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes and more help is always appreciated. It’s also a great way to feel good about our schools, create positive change for all of our kids, and not to brag or anything, but we think we are a pretty fun crew.