'Highly Controversial' Movies Being Shown in Class Have D86 Parent Concerned

Members of the the District 86 School Board said they'd support a discussion on their role in approving movies after a Hinsdale South dad voiced concern over the use of "American Beauty" and "Brokeback Mountain" in a Film as Lit

Several members of the Board of Education said they want to have a formal discussion at their next meeting about the board’s role in approving curriculum materials.

The reason: A  parent voiced concern at Monday night’s meeting over two R-rated movies being shown in one of his son’s classes.

Burr Ridge resident and father of two Victor Casini said he was shocked when he looked at his son’s Film as Literature course syllabus recently and saw that students in the class would be viewing, among other films, “American Beauty” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

Casini called the two films “highly controversial” for their sexual imagery and obscenity.

“There are thousands of movies that could be utilized to achieve the teaching objective without venturing into this area that has a good number, if not a majority, of parents upset,” Casini said Friday on the phone.

At Monday’s meeting, Casini said high school kids these days are “relentlessly bombarded” with such material throughout their day-to-day lives and that schools should be a place where controversial issues are not ignored, but presented responsibly.

“We should choose texts and films that fairly address controversial issues, but do so in ways that inspire and edify and point students in the direction of truth and motivation,” he said.

Casini said he had not seen the course syllabus prior to or during class registration. If he had, he said, he would not have let his son take the class. 

Two weeks into the class, Casini said, "We're in a no-win situation."

The Film as Literature class, according to district officials, is open to both juniors and seniors.

Board members did not take any direct stances on the two movies in question beyond Jennifer Planson's point that 16-year-old juniors in the class would not be allowed to see the R-rated films in a theater on their own. Three members did, however, say they want to have a discussion about the board’s role in approving non-textbook curricular materials like movies.

“This board every year approves textbooks,” said board member Richard Skoda, who asked that a discussion item be placed on the next board meeting’s agenda. “And if we are responsible for approving textbooks, we are also responsible for approving additional materials that are brought in, and movies.”

Kay Gallo said in addition to movies, summer reading books and non-textbook reading materials are also items that should be up for board discussion.

Planson said, “I think that’s a good discussion to have.”

The next board meeting is Sept. 24 at . Casini said he’s contacted a lot of fellow parents who were as shocked to hear about the films as he was, and he said he expects more to show up at that meeting.

District 86 board agendas are typically are released the Friday before the meeting.

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Diana Ossana September 17, 2012 at 08:08 AM
Again, it would be interesting to know whether those objecting to these two films have actually viewed the movies themselves...
Joe O'Donnell September 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Hi Diana, Mr. Casini told me he has seen the movies in question and actually wrote up notes on the scenes from each that he finds inappropriate.
robert rizzuto September 17, 2012 at 08:17 PM
We live in an age where virtually anything is available to young people with a computer. These movies are tame in comparison to what high school kids are viewing on their own. I think it is great that students can have an intelligent discussion about these two films with a teacher guiding the discussion. Those parents that want to opt out have the opportunity to do so. If anything, I would like to see more courses offered that deal with the issues young people have on their minds (teachers are in tune with these) and have mature discussion about it. I don't think one parent should be able to alter the courses a school offers when they are electives, regardless of content. I find this to be a waste of time for the administration. Again, if you don't want your kid to see a particular film or read a particular book, opt out as it is your right. If you don't, you have no one to blame other than yourself. Censorship is very dangerous--more so than these mildly controversial films.
Tracy Burke Schafer September 18, 2012 at 10:19 AM
I agree Robert! I am a parent of a junior in Hinsdale South and do NOT like this attempt at censorship.
Tracey September 22, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I am a Hornet parent and am not shocked or upset about these two films, but am disturbed that this is a controversy at all! Why don't you use your powers for good? Huge increase in heroin use among teens, suicide, gun violence, to name a few!


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