Haddonfield School District addresses misinformation disseminated near school

Administrators clarify district's stance on health and sex ed curriculum, social and emotional learning and critical race theory in response to misinformation distributed near school.

The following letter was sent by the Haddonfield School District on Sept. 8.

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To all HSD Parents and Staff:

This morning we became aware that some community members were handing out print materials to our parents as they took their children to school.  The views expressed by this anonymous group contained numerous inaccuracies related to Health, SEL (social-emotional learning) and CRT (critical race theory) as they allegedly exist in our curricula.

After reading the documents, we felt it necessary to respond to the greater Haddonfield School District family and to review the facts with you as they have been shared at recent Board meetings and on our website.

First, we want to clearly state that the documents in question were intentionally misleading and inflammatory.  We are especially distressed that false information is being willfully shared for the sole purpose of spreading doubt and fear.  We are open to opposing viewpoints, but we dismiss inaccuracies.

Second, the district has been 100 percent transparent about updates and changes to the district’s curricula and will continue to be.  Our Board and administration have made numerous presentations on our curricular updates over time.  Parents may review district curricula on our website here. During the summer, we created a separate website to help explain proposed updates to the Health and PE curriculum.  ALL Board presentations are posted here.

Third, statements made in this document about the Health curriculum as it applies to human sexuality are simply inaccurate. The actual curriculum is available online here.

Fourth, Haddonfield School District does not teach CRT. We continue to teach a fair, accurate representation of history, as we have in the past.

Fifth, the SEL lessons are based on the RULER framework. We believe the school community strongly supports lessons that help our students and staff to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express, and Regulate their emotions. District goals currently under review by the Board of Education state that we will aim to improve feelings of Belonging and Engagement as well as a healthy School Climate. Parents may review RULER lessons on our curriculum website. 

In addition to the RULER lessons, here are the skills we strive to integrate into programming, 1) set goals and work towards achieving them; 2)  approach challenges in a positive, optimistic way; 3) believe in themselves and their abilities; 4) navigate social situations; 5) respond ethically; 6) to be an active, informed citizen; 7) understand, express, and regulate emotions; 8) stand up for others; and 9) empathize with the feelings of others.   We have adopted practices such as “morning meetings” to boost students’ sense of belonging and trust.  We do not displace parents as the primary teachers. 

Sixth, the district supports the work done by the Equity Council which is committed “to the work of diversity, equity, and justice.” This group comprises parents, faculty, staff, and Board members, but is not “engaged in reviewing every aspect of district curriculum at every grade level and modifying it to fit their agenda,” as falsely stated in the hand-outs.  Parents may review information about the Equity Council’s founding, its by-laws and various presentations on our website under DISTRICT.

Seventh, the statements made about the book “George” have been exaggerated, twisted and presented out of context. Although the book is not part of any school’s curriculum, we are proud to make it available in support of any student who has questions about his/her/their identity. You may view a summary of the reading level, along with awards and professional reviews of “George” hereWe stand firm in our belief that we must offer books for all of our students, including our LGBTQIA+ students.

Eighth, the “opt-out” form included in today’s hand-out is not legitimate and will not be usable in our district. Board of Education Policy 5250:  Excusal from Class or Program and Board of Education Policy 2422: Comprehensive Health and Physical Education outline the process to request excusal. 

Finally, and quite simply, we have the best teachers and staff. They are highly qualified, intelligent, thoughtful, and caring professional educators. Our teachers and staff support ALL students. They are guided by state standards, but they determine how information is delivered. We believe that the majority of our district families are equally confident that Haddonfield teachers approach all interactions in an age-appropriate and effective manner.

… and THANK YOU TO OUR PARENTS

We have received various messages of support from many parents today.

We thank you for your kind words and for recognizing the intention of these hand-outs.

We know you will continue to support our faculty and staff and to speak up when misleading information is being distributed.  

We are aware that some of you were upset this morning and asked our administrators to actively address the situation. Unfortunately, we do not have the right to ask people to walk away from the sidewalks adjacent to our school buildings.

We strongly encourage parents to attend Board meetings in person or watch from home to follow our presentations and to stay abreast of district initiatives.

Thank you.

Charles Klaus, Superintendent of Schools

Jaime Grookett, President of the Board of Education

Gerry Bissinger, President of the Haddonfield Association of School Administrators

Rachel Gould, Co-President of the Haddonfield Education Association

Sean Sweeney, Co-President of the Haddonfield Education Association

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