Friday, October 17, 2008

On Raising Cain

As a child and student, I remember being mortified many times by my mother's Letters. She was not afraid to let her voice be heard, to start petitions, to effectively "raise Cain" if needed. One of her favorite things to get ruffled about, as I recall, were the song choices by our elementary school choir teacher, Mr. DiMenna (affectionately nicknamed Mr. Demented, of course. His massive comb-over didn't help his cause any, nor did his Sansa-belt polyester pants.) He liked the 4th-8th graders singing songs that had lyrics like "lying next to you here in the dark". I would have been steamed too, but nevertheless it was still embarrassing to have to take her petitions around to all my friends' houses to see if their parents would join the cause.

I've written my fair share of Letters too, carrying on in her tradition. Maybe the fact that I got Letters from her and Italian from my father makes it near impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. And this latest episode at my daughter's high school is a real doozy, for sure. I appreciate so much the support you've given me, and I took the dear talented Letter Writer Supreme Josi Kilpack up on her offer to help draft a letter. She got right on it. I only tweaked it a tiny bit, and then personalized them for each recipient. The letter from yesterday's blog post was merely a theatrical effort to dramatize for the blog's sake. I know enough to not hit below the belt with name-calling.

So, without further adieu, here is the letter that I sent to the principal this morning:

Dear Principal Klewitz,

On Wednesday, October 15, 2008, my daughter, a freshman at Verdugo Hills, received a permission slip asking parental approval for her to attend “Spring Awakening” with her dance class, taught by Mrs. Weber, on November 5. The field trip, as I understand was initiated by the drama club coach, Mr. John Lawler. The permission slip gave a brief account of the “controversial” play, stating that it might not be appropriate for all students.
I am an ardent supporter of the arts and strongly believe that a solid foundation in theatre, dance, and music gives my children a wider view of the world and helps them to tap into their own creativity. I expect that to be the same goal of the public schools they attend, and am therefore extremely disappointed that the teachers and administration of Verdugo Hills High School would feel “frank portrayals of masturbation, abortion, rape, and suicide” are acceptable for any student.
With all the beautiful and edifying mediums of art culture available in this area, it is impossible for me to comprehend why “Spring Awakening” was the venue chosen. It is far beyond the scope of “education” for students to be expected to properly absorb and interpret the themes presented in this musical. Never mind that they are children, but to watch such “frank portrayals” surrounded by other teenagers is not only inappropriate, but extremely dangerous as they lack the maturity to fully appreciate the consequences of things like abortion and suicide. Part of our job as parents, teachers, and administrators is to keep our children safe both emotionally and morally while they are in our care, and this field trip promises to do neither.
The point of this letter is to let you know, without uncertainty, that I am absolutely opposed to this trip, not only for my child, but for every student. Its explicit content is counter-productive to the goals of education that as parents, teachers, and administrators we have all pledged to be a part of. I hope that you will reconsider the trip and choose a more educationally edifying event to support through both student attendance and the financial cost of such an endeavor.
In closing, please be informed that I have sent a copy of this letter to the LAUSD Board of Education District 6 member, Julie Korenstein; city council; and Governor Schwarzenegger’s office; as well as to the LA Times editorial office. I have also let Mr. Lawler know by email of my feelings opposing this field trip. I will be paying close attention to your choices in this matter as I evaluate what course of action I choose to take in the future.
Thank you for your time,


Jenna Consolo

And true to my promise, I sent letters to Mr. Lawler (the drama teacher who drummed up this whole idea), the LAUSD Board of Education, my City Council Member, Governor Schwarzenegger, and the L.A. Times. It's been a busy morning.

And I'm sure Lyndsay is, for the first time, grateful that I have a different last name than she does.

P.S.--Thank you, Josi! xo!


Abby said...

That last line about the last names had me laughing a bit. Oh, golly.

The worst thing mom did that I can remember..was chased Mister Softee out of the neighborhood (because between the three closest houses there were 30 kids which was a total goldmine for him and stressful for the parents) and I didn't even find out it was her who chased him away till I was much older. I just remember being confused with the other neighborhood kids as to where he went. Now I know.

Great letter! May something great come of it.

Love you!

Annette Lyon said...

YES! Perfect letter (yay, Josi!)--and it's so cool and logical that no one can come back and say it's from a crazy, whack-job mom.

Glad you sent the letter far and wide. Keep us updated on what happens.

templework said...

I'm so glad I "only" had to deal with Judy Blume when my kids were in school! (boy does that date me!)

What were these people thinking???

Bless you!

Wonder Woman said...

I told my husband about this last night and he was as shocked and disturbed by it as I was.

I can't imagine that even "liberal" californian parents are going to be completely okay with this.

It seriously blows my mind

Laurie said...

Nice job! Very nicely worded. You are doing the right thing. I also laughed at the last names line. It's scary to stand up and take the risk of standing alone. I have hope that many others in your school district will also be appauled and support your efforts.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Well done! You've got to let us know what replies you get.

family said...

YOU GO GIRL!!! Imagine now if prop 8 gets passed and they do not need to send notification home! We need to voice our opinion!

Pezlady Jana said...


YogaNana said...

I was so hoping you'd leave in the line about flogging! :o)

Jeri said...

FANTASTIC! it almost seems TOO nice - nicer than they deserve. what a scary world we live in.
I sure appreciate that people like you are standing up to it. (hasn't really hit Utah yet, but I'm sure my turn will come...)

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I just want to stand up and cheer! Not just because you wrote a letter and sent it, but because it`s such a brilliantly written letter. You don`t come off as a hysterical parent throwing a hissy fit, you come across as an intelligent person who is disgusted by the pattern of education this field trip exemplifies.

Masterfully done!

Anonymous said...

perfect. If I could only have your brain. Do we really live in this crazy state?


Wonder Woman said...

and the award goes to.......Jenna! Come see how wonderful you are!!

Tara R. said...

Excellent letter! I could not agree more. I hope you get a response from this and that a better venue is selected for a field trip.

Anonymous said...

Is there really a parent that would say "oh, cool what a great learning experience" when they got that letter from school?

idahohubers said...

Oh my gosh! Good for you to send such a direct and powerful letter and to follow it up with the other copies to people 'at the top'. I saw Maria Shriver on Oprah the other day talking about a big women's conference to be held in CA soon. I imagine miss first lady herself would agree with you if she ever gets to see that letter!