Oswego School District 308 officials took a moment during a Board of Education public forum Monday evening, March 2, to discuss a pending change in curriculum required by the State of Illinois that will result in students being taught about the roles and contributions of LGBTQ community members.
Pamela Copeland, a school district parent, raised a concern about what the curriculum will entail during a question-and-answer portion of the forum at Lakewood Creek Elementary School in Montgomery.
"As parents, there is some concern as to what you're going to teach my children and who is going to do that teaching and what's going to be in that curriculum," Copeland told the board.
Copeland continued, "I certainly believe that people have the right to self-determination, and I believe they have the right to their private lives, but I also believe that I have the right to have my children learning the values that are important to me as well."
The bill in question, signed as a public act by Governor J.B. Pritzker in 2019, created a mandate for public schools that says teaching the history of the United States must include study of the "roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this state."
The new curriculum will become effective beginning July 1 of this year.
Copeland said a big question that she and many parents have is what the curriculum will look like, especially in lower grade levels.
Associate Superintendent for Educational Services Faith Dahlquist confirmed that some district secondary staff will be taking training on the new curriculum in the next few weeks.
Most likely, Dahlquist said, the curriculum in elementary schools would focus around "an inclusive community and how do we build tolerance and celebrate our unity as well as our unique differences."
Copeland asked Dahlquist if parents would be able to learn what the curriculum would entail, prior to the lessons taking place.
"As we build that, we would share out the standards or those activities and things that we would be doing," Dahlquist said, adding that she didn't envision spending a lot of time on the matter at the elementary level. The curriculum, she said, would be shared as new materials are presented to the board.
Following a question by Board Vice President Matt Bauman, Dahlquist confirmed that schools have some leeway in how they cover the topic, but the topic is a mandate.
It is suggested, Dahlquist said, that schools begin enacting the new curriculum in the next school year, but as the district has state social studies standards that have not yet been implemented, the district may spend time in the coming school year reviewing the material before implementing it in classrooms.