Fox News: Eugene school scandal spurs uproar, candidate challenger

Dr Michael Bratland is a dentist and owner of Crisdental in Eugene, Oregon.  He’s a husband and the father of five of his own children and two foster children. He’s running for Eugene 4J school board this May.

How’s this for a fantasy? Eugene’s Churchill High School – my alma mater – gains national and, indeed, international attention for its stellar graduation rate and unbelievable levels of reading and math proficiency. And, as an aspiring school board candidate, I’m interviewed by the nation’s TV networks to see what I plan to do to keep up Churchill and 4J’s academic excellence. That’s my fantasy.

The reality, of course, is something far different. My old Churchill High – well, has it has gained national and international notoriety over the outrageous, out-of-control sex-ed assignments one of its teachers inflicted on his students. In one he asked them to write a paragraph or two on their sexual fantasies (“You will write a short story of a paragraph or two. This story is a sexual fantasy that will have NO penetration of any kind or oral sex …. You will choose 3 items (romantic music, candles, massage oil, feather, feather boa, flavored syrup, etc.) to use in your story.”) Another entitled ““With Whom Would You Do It” featured a spinning wheel with assorted sexual acts and asked students to provide initials of male and female classmates they want to have the sexual activity with. Yes, all this is why Churchill High and 4J Schools are now in the news and why Fox News Channel recently interviewed me.

It’s also why our 4J parents are up in arms. They should be. Our current board members condemned the assignments – they should have – though their condemnations were followed by “buts …

Let’s be clear: there should be no “buts …

Yes, the teacher in question has been suspended, the district has launched an independent investigation into the incident, and the school board gave aggrieved parents a chance to vent at the March school board meeting, though it cut back the time each person had to address the board. None of this is good enough.  None of this goes far enough. Following the completion of this independent investigation, the board needs to devote one or more special meetings on how this came to happen and what passes for “comprehensive sex education” in our district and why.

Parents need answers. A properly functioning board needs answers. At this point, the questions are obvious:

Did district officials actually read the curriculum? That’s the question a mother with a daughter in the class asked.  Katherine Rogers went on: “If this was reviewed, how did it slip through the cracks?”  Exactly.

Were these creepy assignments, in fact, actually in the Our Whole Life curriculum that the district adopted in 2016 and implemented in 2018? Churchill principal Missy Cole told parents in an email that the teacher was simply following the approved curriculum, but the OWL people say no, it was an “unauthorized” and outdated assignment. Which is it?

District officials stated that they provide parents with a syllabus and allow them to opt their children out. How exactly is the syllabus provided to parents – to all parents or upon request only? – and does the syllabus spell out the assignments and supplemental lessons at each grade level? In short, are 4J parents given a realistic look at what their children might be asked to do in class before the they’re given the chance to opt out?

What are the possible OWL assignments and supplemental lessons and supplemental reading materials at each grade level?

The 4J communications director Jenna McCulley has told the media that the district will be adopting a new health curriculum before the end of the school year. Not so fast. Those plans should be placed on hold.  Given what we know so far about the Churchill incident and given what we may learn about it in the weeks and months ahead, we need involvement of the board at the granular level, and the board needs the involvement of parents – all parents – on this issue. Just where is the district in this process? What curricula are being considered? And what are the recommended readings and class assignments associated with each curriculum?

In a statement about the incident, 4J Superintendent Andy Dey said there was “inadequate oversight around the standards required and the best methods to meet those standards by relying on supplemental lessons rather following the [OWL] curriculum verbatim.” The board needs to examine each element of that statement as part of its special session – or special sessions – on the Churchill incident in particular and sex education in general.

We need answers. Our 4J parents deserve answers.

Our 4J School Board needs to take up this issue in a way that we – the board, parents, educators and voters – can be a source of pride rather than shame.

Dr Michael Bratland is a dentist and owner of Crisdental in Eugene, Oregon.  He’s a husband and the father of five of his own children and two foster children. He’s running for Eugene 4J school board this May.