Ethics program worries District 47 parents

CRYSTAL LAKE – As District 47 officials look to implement character-based education,
a group of concerned parents voiced opposition to it Monday night.

Next month, the school board is slated to vote on whether to implement Character Counts, a program aimed at enhancing ethics in children.

Character Counts has six basic tenets that, depending on how the school board votes, would be adopted into classrooms districtwide starting later, this school year. The programs principles are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

“I don’t think that there is a person here who would disagree with these pillars,” board member Ruth Scifo said at Monday’s school board meeting.

While it seemed like a no-brainer to at least one parent who spoke, and those on the school board who voiced support, some parents said they are concerned that the program would teach controversial subject matter and introduce adult themes too early.

“The values I pass on to my child should be of my choosing and schools should focus on academics,” one parent told the board.

Another argued that the program undermines parental authority, and teaches religious, political and other controversial topics although Character Counts claims to be nonpartisan and nonsectarian.

After the parents spoke, board member Rob Routzahn discussed students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and pointed to the high incidence of such students being bullied.

“I would be very concerned about programs brought forth by this administration that fails to protect this terribly bullied minority,” Routzahn said.

Character County has a strong anti-bullying component as part of its curriculum. The district also will bring in programs such as Rachel’s Challenge this year – another anti-bullying program that many other county school districts already have offered.

It will cost about $17,000 to offer Character Counts programming in the district, but $10,000 of that comes from Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants, Superintendent Donn Mendoza said.

“The spirit of this is assisting our kids into developing into better people, more caring, compassionate and empathetic students,” Mendoza said after the meeting.

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