Op-Ed: An Honest Letter to the Silent Parents & Teachers of the LCPS Community:

By Amy Jahr, Ashburn

Just because we do not always speak up does not mean we are not a very large part of this community. Some are silent just because they have no reason not to question the “statements” issued by LCPS. But the majority of us are quiet because we carefully weigh the risk/reward ratio and opt to stay silent. When I read Dr. Ziegler’s statement about “the books” I had no choice but to turn up the volume.

My daughter is a student currently participating in the 9th Grade Honors English Book Club assignment at Stone Bridge and so I am keenly aware of the facts of this particular controversy. My purpose in writing is twofold: (1) to highlight the deception from Dr. Ziegler and some board members to the community regarding the controversy of this matter, and (2) to shed light on the fact that there are no policies, procedures, or guidelines in place to prevent this from happening again.

The statement released by Dr. Ziegler about these 9th grade assignments is misleading, and requires transparency. Specifically, Dr. Ziegler used the word “optional” in three out of the eight sentences in his statement, and in two different sentences referenced specific recourse for students who deem a book “inappropriate.”“#Murdertrending” (assigned at Independence HS) was indeed a required reading as acknowledged by the principal (via email) that it “was given as a required assignment” and “should not have been designated a mandatory text.”Not until he received parent complaints was the assignment stopped and “an approved, alternate anchor text” was to be provided.

The book “Monday’s Not Coming” (assigned at Stone Bridge) was included as a part of a required six-week reading assignment. Parents were not told of the list of five books ahead of time, and students made their selection based only on summaries and positive reviews on the provided link togoodreads.com. They were then assigned to a “literature circle group,” followed by an assignment of specific roles within the group. Directions included that, “literature circles require that all members of the group participate equally.” Nowhere in the assignment’s instructions was there a communication to the students that they could switch books at any time (although a 6th title was added after reading had begun to the lack of variety in themes). In fact, in the FAQ’s there is a statement that to get a good mark, “you must participate fully in your literature circle discussions” and if you don’t, “at the end of each meeting, you will submit an anonymous peer assessment sheet that will give you the opportunity to share who has not come to class prepared.”

The students won’t get to the graphic sexual content and child abuse/trauma passages until they are well into the book—and thus well established in their literature circle groups. From my timeline, having read the book, they are likely approaching those parts now. Should the students feel at this point that the content is “inappropriate,” offensive, uncomfortable, or personally too painful or too triggering to discuss openly in their groups (now more than halfway through the assignment) they are stuck. The book is no longer “optional” to those students at this point due to the hefty price tag of:

(1) an awkward conversation with their teacher,

(2) enduring questions and embarrassment of switching/“messing up” groups,

(3) having to play serious catchup and thus sacrificing their grade.

These are very real negative consequences for students. Therefore, Dr. Ziegler’s statement emphasizing “optional” and recourse for “inappropriateness” is misleading to the public. Unfortunately, this only deepens the divide within our LCPS community.

To the second point of my twofold purpose–There are no policies, procedures, or guidelines in place for teachers to use to evaluate the books that end up in the curriculum. My first thought in all of this was, “how did this happen, where were the adults?” My belief in human integrity secretly hoped this book just slipped through the cracks and we can fix this going forward. Until I saw that the book my daughter chose from the list, “All American Boys,” dropped the F*bomb not just a few times but 41 times. In further discovery of this whole mess, I learned that several teachers of the 9H English team did indeed read “Monday’s Not Coming.” And saw absolutely no concerning issues with it. None. For their 14-year-old students. Even our most vainglorious LCPS School Board member weighed in herself on social media to grant the book her full stamp of approval.

The fact that the book was chosen from the LCPS approved “Grade 9 Diverse Book Collection” list both validated the voices of the teachers who encouraged it, and also silenced the voices of those teachers who had concerns. And left our principals and teachers to take the brunt of the heat and clean up the ensuing mess.

LCPS rushed this book collection into our schools in the name of “equity,” and now LCPS must take responsibility for developing appropriate content guidelines in the name of “integrity”—much like the Motion Picture Association of America uses ratings for films; or how the FCC employs a three-pronged test (established by the Supreme Court) to determine suitability for public programming; or even how LCPS itself operates technology protection measures (via LCPS Policy 7566 & 8650) to “prevent access to child pornography, obscenity, and material that the School Division deems to be harmful to students and material that is otherwise inappropriate for students”.

If LCPS is taking full responsibility for determining inappropriateness of content at the technology level, why then would LCPS wash its hand of any responsibility for determining inappropriateness of books presented to students in class assignments? Why would Dr. Ziegler feel the need to remind parents not once, but twice, in his statement that it is parents’ responsibility to determine and manage inappropriate content of classroom assignments? There is a certain level of common sense here that is just not being used in the highest levels of LCPS and the entire country is shaking its head at the absurdity of it.

I emailed Dr. Ziegler and the School Board two weeks ago and did not receive a response (and have subsequently followed up with Dr. Ellis but still awaiting a response). I requested that LCPS issue an honest and transparent statement that this poorly implemented diverse book collection opened the door for this to happen. I also requested that LCPS develop (and publish) guidelines for our teachers to use to test for inappropriate content of the LCPS approved books before using them in assignments; otherwise, this will most assuredly happen again.

This book debacle is the perfect example that makes us question our silence: If I speak out about “common sense” level inappropriateness, I’ll be branded a racist. If I want to express my concerns confidentially, I’m directed to “submit a formal request for the Reconsideration of Instructional Materials.” Such a request will kick off a very public division level review process and anonymity is not guaranteed for the parent or the student. Who is going to risk that? Especially in light of the fact that a board member has openly endorsed the book. But this isn’t just limited to books. If parents publicly oppose the current CRT/Equity based curriculum, or even speak out wanting their kids to be in a classroom 5 days a week, they know they risk being doxxed in this county—by a very deliberate and coordinated effort.

I used to be a “silent parent,” but it’s crystal clear to me now that my continued silence only fosters a climate of intentional intimidation. I encourage you to join me in speaking up so our collective voices can be heard. All students deserve to learn in an environment that doesn’t compromise their self-respect or dignity. And that is the true foundation of equity.

22 thoughts on “Op-Ed: An Honest Letter to the Silent Parents & Teachers of the LCPS Community:

  • 2021-05-25 at 10:06 am
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    The public school system is evil and you should get your kids out now. What are you waiting for?

  • 2021-05-25 at 10:11 am
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    This is another example of elected officials run amok. Decisions are being made without parent input and in closed meetings. We can continue to bring to light the problems of our school board and the superintendent but as long as they are in power they will continue the reckless behavior with impunity. It is critical that caring parents concerned about their children’s’ education band together to put people in place on the board that will work FOR the citizens of Loudoun and not for a radical political agenda. Remove the school board!

  • 2021-05-25 at 10:41 am
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    Maybe it’s you, Amy. If you’re going to be so sensitive to what your child reads, you should be proactive about it with the teacher and ask in advance what books will be used in a class. That’s your right. Others have a right to make their own decisions on what is offensive and what is not. Welcome to the big, wide world of thoughts and ideas.

    • 2021-05-25 at 3:31 pm
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      Or, the teachers we pay to care for our children could do their jobs and actually teach age-appropriate material. Or, the administrators we pay to care for our children could do their jobs and actually manage age-appropriate material. Or, the School Board we pay to care for our children could do their jobs and actually demand age-appropriate material.

      LCPS can’t teach advanced math because some kids are too stupid to understand it and will have their feelings hurt. But, LCPS can teach sexually explicit material even though it makes some kids uncomfortable?

    • 2021-05-26 at 1:17 pm
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      Judging from the overwhelmingly positive feedback I have received from the letter, I can confidently say it’s not just me . But let’s say, just for fun, that maybe it IS just me. And let’s say that your personal bias about my level of sensitivity IS correct. And while we are at it, let’s just pretend that your thoughtfully crafted comment truly IS my first experience in the big wide world of thoughts and ideas. Even if all of those things were indeed true, it does not negate the fact that you have entirely missed the twofold purpose of the letter. One other commenter here missed it too, so you are not alone – I won’t rewrite the purpose here again as you can just scroll down to read what I replied to that commenter. Alternatively, you can just refer back to paragraph 2 of the letter – just look for the sentence that begins with, “My purpose in writing is twofold…”

    • 2021-05-28 at 11:39 pm
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      Citizen A – should I be allowed to decide if the N-Word is offensive and if I decide it’s not am I free to use it at will? Or have you decided that the only speech that should be banned is language you don’t agree with?

  • 2021-05-25 at 12:00 pm
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    I read this letter on Facebook, where it was slightly different. There are terms used in the book that were included in this letter, but they are missing here. Why is that? If these terms are unsuitable to be published, then how are they suitable for our 14 year old kids?

  • 2021-05-25 at 12:06 pm
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    Thank you Amy for your thoughtful and courageous stand.
    It is lamentable that that it takes courage to express legitimate concerns about the education of our children.
    It is lamentable that our elected officials on the board of supervisors and school board facilitate this intimidating atmosphere and let smut and racial propaganda in school curriculum .
    It is clear that Ziegler is dishonest, incompetent or both and needs to go with most of school board.

  • 2021-05-25 at 12:18 pm
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    Yes, my letter published in Loudoun Now omitted the references to the offending sexual content. I added it in the comments but they were not approved. This proves my whole point that this kind of language and imagery does not belong in the hands of 14 year olds. If Loudoun Now can uphold it’s duty to it’s mature readers, certainly one should expect the same of LCPS for our minor children. Yet when you call that out we are met with deception, deflection, and even a school board member publicly lauding the book. Where is the accountability?

    • 2021-05-25 at 3:25 pm
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      Some 10 years ago I had a friend Paul who had the same problem. He went to the BoS to read aloud from the smut books LCPS had kids reading. An uber-Lefty Supervisor asked him to stop reading the material because it was offensive to the public. Paul stated the same facts, if it is too offensive for the BoS to hear, then why should kids be reading it?

      But that was 10 years ago, and nothing changed. In that time, how many tens of thousands of Loudoun children have been required to read horrific material? LCPS teachers have done nothing to protect the children they claim to care about, the administrators are a group of provincial ne’er-do-wells, the School Board seems to actually like to harm children, and the Board of Supervisors rubber stamps funding to a school district that does not deserve our money.

      And let’s be blunt about this problem—it is Democrats! When you keep voting for, what is now a Communist Party, you get this kind of depravity. Don’t allow Democrats anywhere near positions of authority around children and don’t vote for them ever.

      • 2021-05-30 at 10:43 am
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        Dear God, David. Stop with the histrionics. You embarrass yourself.

        All these people afraid of *books* need their head examined.

        Half of you whine and moan about cancel culture and yet here you are.

        Amy doesn’t speak for any “silent majority.” She only speaks for herself.

        David just won’t stop speaking, it seems.

    • 2021-05-25 at 8:13 pm
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      I’m curious, what did your daughter’s teacher say to you when you shared these concerns with him/her?

      • 2021-05-26 at 12:49 pm
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        You have misunderstood “these concerns”. The second paragraph contains them, but for ease of reference I shall offer them directly here:

        (1) to highlight the deception from Dr. Ziegler and some board members to the community regarding the controversy of this matter, and

        (2) to shed light on the fact that there are no policies, procedures, or guidelines in place to prevent this from happening again.

        Neither of those would be a concern for me to discuss with my daughter’s teacher. For clarity, I privately emailed my concerns to the board and the acting superintendent two weeks ago. When that was ignored, I privately emailed them again to Dr. Ziegler again (as well as Dr. Ellis). Still no response.

        My ignored concerns morphed into concerns for the public – particularly the historically silent folks like myself. Thus my open and honest letter to “The Silent Parents and Teachers of LCPS Community”

        • 2021-05-26 at 3:42 pm
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          You don’t think a classroom assignment is worth discussing with the teacher first in order to fully understand the context and expectations? Perhaps a conference with the teacher and school administrators would have been a more reasonable and productive first step without escalating things to this point? Instead, you immediately contact the superintendent, school board, and write this letter? Your letter only presents your side of the issue without any attempt to understand or even address the other side.

          • 2021-05-28 at 10:32 am
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            Tjack – I most certainly do think such an assignment is worth discussing at the local school level first. And I completely agree with you that the first step is to reach out to the school to fully understand context and expectations. In fact, your suggestion of a conference with school administrators as a reasonable first and productive step is precisely what happened. Twice. And similar conversations between the school and several other concerned parents. Your comment is making it clear to me that you are STILL missing the mark on the very clear purpose of the letter, so let me try again: My letter does not present one side of any issue as you suggest. In fact, there are no sides – there are no sides to understand or address because my letter is not arguable. LCPS misrepresented the facts to the public. That is a fact. LCPS does not have a policy in place to prevent this from happening again. That is also a fact. Those facts brought about real concerns which I then presented (multiple times) to the appropriate levels to request remedies. When such concerns are consistently ignored, the next step is to enlighten the public to such concerns. It is our civic duty to one another. I would love to meet with you over coffee to to discuss if are still unclear about the purpose of my letter. Sometimes personal conversations are best for understanding. Feel free to email me at acjahr@yahoo.com

          • 2021-05-28 at 1:00 pm
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            “…escalating things?” The only party ‘escalating things’ are the unhinged school board and their corrupt bureaucrats at Ed Ct. Ms. Jahr didn’t create a secret hate list as the school board did? Ms. Jahr didn’t pronounce she’s “at war with parents” as a school board member did. Ms. Jahr isn’t the one telling our children to judge everybody based on the color of their skin, or that America sucks — the school board is.

            This letter says what many Loudoun families are thinking.

  • 2021-05-25 at 9:53 pm
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    A big thank you to Ms Jahr!

    She has the courage to say what thousands of us parents WANT to say, but have yet to write a letter. The letter writer would make an excellent replacement for Mr. Ziegler who is dishonest and lacks courage.

    Thousands of us, however, have signed the petition to boot the smut peddlers, AKA “School Board Members” , out of office.

    This is the same group that continually makes NATIONAL news and continually EMBARRASSES Loudoun County.

    This is the same group that facilitated the Enemies List. You know, the list of parents like us that want our schools opened full time.

    This is the same group that force feeds the Critical Race Theory GARBAGE to Loudoun youth. CRT is racist and offensive to all skin colors.

    Peddling porn and forming an Enemies List are just two of many reasons that School Board members should resign immediately.

    Pathetic.

    Loudoun deserves better.

  • 2021-05-26 at 8:40 am
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    Amy, thank you for your thoughtful and, most importantly, fact-based letter. I am quite certain you speak for many people who don’t align neatly with either the far right or left sides of the many battles raging within the collective LCPS community. Many of those who occupy the offices 21000 Education Court in Ashburn have long since adopted a stance of “self-righteousness” over “representation” or “accountability,” so I wholeheartedly agree that the least we parents could expect is for our teachers and schools to support those students who have been marginalized by the ill-informed changes adopted by the LCPS Board over the past year (during a time when their single most important focus should have been developing and implementing a plan to prevent learning loss and expediting a safe return to in-classroom instruction). While I would consider my own family socially progressive and absolutely do not object to actually having these books in high school libraries, under no circumstance should they be included or encouraged as part of an in-classroom assignment so as to not infringe on the rights of more socially conservative students, parents and teachers. I know my own open-minded, however modest and respectful, son would never want to be part of a project that includes discussing the themes and language suggested in books such as “Monday’s Not Coming.” Similarly, I strongly believe that there is a simple solution to the CRT war, which is to offer the opinion-based (i.e. not fact-based) program as an optional workshop for teachers and students rather than required training or curriculum.

    However, we are all painfully aware that LCPS has never adopted a spirit of compromise, as a perpetual “war with parents” seems to be more their thing. The worst part of all of this is that so-called “silent” parents such as you and myself have asked the LCPS board for answers to specific questions via email and non-public forums, and in the very rare situation we receive a response, it does not include answers to our questions, most likely because the Board Members are so ill-informed themselves. Einstein said it best – “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” By now I am convinced that the only resolution would be to abolish the school board completely, as they are completely motivated by self-interest and virtue signaling that does nothing to address the academic diversity gap, which is something many parents such as myself are genuinely concerned about.

    If you do decide to organize a team of “pseudo-silent” parents who would petition LCPS to adopt policies that would enforce improved oversight over what is being shared within our LCPS classrooms as “required” vs. “optional,” I’m sure you’d have many volunteers lining up to support you, including myself.

    • 2021-06-09 at 9:44 pm
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      Absolutely not. She speaks for me too. As a parent of an SBHS 9th grader, I whole-heartedly agree with Amy. I’ve sent my own letters to SBHS and LCPS officials, but nothing is happening. Nothing is changing.

  • 2021-05-26 at 2:37 pm
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    As a parent myself, I can understand how we want to keep the bad, ugly, or sexual related things from our children as long as possible. Its been this way from well before any of us posting here were born. Its a natural tendency to want to protect our children. This goes hand in hand with wanting our children to succeed in life. While I definitely don’t agree with the board on all of the things they do, I see no harm in these books, because they. are. just. books. Instead of complaining about these “naughty” books, take the time to talk with your kids about the passages in the books that you dislike. I mean really talk, have a discussion about the passages and what they mean in the context of the book (because context is everything) and what they mean to you personally. Just calling something bad doesn’t make it so.

    On a related note, by the time our children have gotten into high school, they’ve most likely seen or read about all the things that are in these “naughty” books, thanks to the handheld computers they carry around with them everywhere and at all times. So the things that we may think we’re protecting them from, are things they’re going to see on their own anyways and its not something you can hide from them. This is why its more important to talk with your children and have those uncomfortable conversations with them if you want to have some real input on what it is they are reading or seeing.

    • 2021-05-28 at 12:06 pm
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      Interesting take on my letter. I’m wondering if perhaps you have confused it with another letter you may have read. If you will re-read my letter carefully, you will see that I am not “complaining about these naughty books” nor was I “just calling something bad” as you stated in your comment. The letter is in fact an intentional vehicle to enlighten the public (1) to the deceptive communication practices at the highest level of LCPS, and (2) to the policy loophole that exists in preventing exposure to printed material that is “inappropriate for students” that is otherwise defined and covered at the technology level (LCPS Policy 7566 & 8650)
      I appreciate your feedback about talking to children about such passages in the context of the books they read. I could not agree with you more! In fact, you support the need for a policy that addresses this. Unfortunately, we have a situation now where books with such passages are being slipped into assignments without advance notification to parents of what the books contain. If parents don’t know, they are robbed of the opportunity to engage in those import conversations. Likewise, a parent may want to have the opportunity to opt out. For example. A parent may have a 14 year old that was physically or sexually abused and would want to opt out due to obvious trigger concerns.
      But my greatest concerns are for the kids who DON’T have a supportive home environment. Who don’t have parents they feel they can talk to about such themes. Imagine the girl who is currently being trafficked (and they indeed exist in our high schools). Or the girl who is processing the shame of herself engaging in sexual activity that she regrets. Or the girl writhing in humiliation that the one nude she reluctantly sent to her boyfriend is circulating all through Loudoun on social media. Just imagine her if you will. She’s stuck reading this book, and forced to discuss it in with a handful of other kids online that she may or may not know. She’s alone at home, still distance learning, doing the best she can to keep it together without any support. Without any teacher able to see her face. Without the ability to walk into the counselors office. Take it one step further and imagine an immature 14 year old boy in the group joking about it. Imagine him texting her on the side saying he saw her picture on Snapchat, and then sends a pic of “himself”.
      She is home. All alone.
      As a parent myself, I see grave harm in that. For that vulnerable girl, this is indeed not. just. a. book. LCPS has a responsibility to never put her in that situation during a classroom assignment. EVER.

  • 2021-05-27 at 8:38 am
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    Thank you for putting in writing what many folks Loudoun feel. Not unlike the numerous other “woke/progressive” initiatives that are distributed by the school system, this is just one more example of why a wide spectrum of people are outraged. You are not alone !!

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