(Note to readers: I received this transcript from a teacher I got to know when I was reporting for the PBS NewsHour. While I cannot swear that it’s legitimate, this teacher has never misled me in the past. I’ve changed the names of the principal and the teacher and removed references that might identify the location of the school.)
PRINCIPAL: Well, Mrs. Peterson, I’ve finally managed to connect with all the parents of your students, and I have some good news and some bad news.
MRS. PETERSON: What’s the good news, Mrs. Montoya?
PRINCIPAL: Nearly all the parents trust you and want you to teach their fifth graders the way you feel is best.
MRS. PETERSON: Thanks, but I don’t like that “nearly all.” What does that mean?
PRINCIPAL: The parents of five of your 5th graders have some problems, and they are invoking the new state law.
MRS. PETERSON: Meaning?
PRINCIPAL: Rose’s parents want to make certain that none of the math problems involve animals, especially dogs and cats, because Rose is allergic to cats and was bitten by a dog when she was three. They’re afraid forcing her to deal with them, even in words, could bring about a panic attack. The law is on their side, I’m afraid.
MRS. PETERSON: OK, so I’ll be careful about math problems. What else?
PRINCIPAL: Regina’s Dad wants a guarantee that you will cover both sides when the children are studying the Civil War.
MRS. PETERSON: Of course.
PRINCIPAL: He means that he wants you to tell the students that Abraham Lincoln owned slaves.
MRS. PETERSON: That’s preposterous! Lincoln freed the slaves. He didn’t own any slaves!
PRINCIPAL: Well, Regina’s Dad showed me some material he had downloaded from the internet, and he wants that story told. And he’s claiming one of the five seats we have installed for parents in the back of your classroom.
MRS. PETERSON: What seats? What are you talking about?
PRINCIPAL: The new law requires parental seating for any parent who wants to observe their child’s teacher at work. He says he plans to be there regularly.
MRS. PETERSON: This is ridiculous.
PRINCIPAL: It gets worse, actually, because some legislators want cameras installed in every classroom so that parents can keep an eye on teachers.
MRS. PETERSON: Ok, who’s next?
PRINCIPAL: Wally’s parents have decided to homeschool him during Black History Month, unless the School Board creates two White History Months.
MRS. PETERSON: Are they crazy? The rest of the whole damn year is White History Year!
PRINCIPAL: Well, they say that, since whites are in the majority, there ought to be TWO White History Months, and they are going to petition the School Board to create them. They don’t want Wally to feel bad for an entire month, because never owned slaves or belonged to the Klan. He shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because he’s white, they say.
MRS. PETERSON: OK, that’s Wally, Rose, and Regina. What are the other two complaining about?
PRINCIPAL: Sonia’s folks have some concerns about how you are dealing with sexuality and gender issues.
MRS. PETERSON: What do they mean? I don’t ‘deal with’ those subjects. That’s not in my curriculum.
PRINCIPAL: Yes, but you have a student with two Dads, and Sonia’s parents want to make sure you never ask stuff like “What did you do with your parents this weekend?” or “Do your parents go trick-or-treating with you?” Anything that would bring up gay marriage and stuff like that.
MRS. PETERSON: What on earth are they afraid of? Do they think I’m grooming their children?
PRINCIPAL: Actually, they did use that term, and I told them they were being ridiculous. Still, they were talking about suing you–and me–if their child comes home feeling depressed or put upon for being straight.
MRS. PETERSON: What if their child is gay, or just confused? Am I supposed to ignore their pain?
PRINCIPAL: Actually, yes, because the new law says that’s none of your business. And don’t forget to post all your lesson plans and curriculum materials on line so parents can review everything, with enough time to file objections.
MRS PETERSON: This is getting worse and worse. This new law is for the birds.
PRINCIPAL: Just one more: Frank’s parents are very upset about the portraits of President Biden and Vice President Harris that hang near your door.
MRS. PETERSON: Don’t they know those portraits hang in every classroom in the school? That’s not my doing. I think that may be a state rule, actually, or perhaps the School Board’s.
PRINCIPAL: They know, and they want them taken down and replaced by portraits of Trump and Pence.
MRS. PETERSON: They lost!
PRINCIPAL: Not according to Frank’s parents. The election was stolen, they told me several times.
MRS. PETERSON: Well, I’m not taking down any portraits. President Biden won the 2020 election, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
PRINCIPAL: I asked the Superintendent for guidance, and he told me to take down all the portraits, to calm things down.
MRS. PETERSON: Now that’s a profile in courage! Run and hide… Why can’t we get the other parents involved? After all, I have 32 students, meaning that 27 families are satisfied with my teaching. Isn’t there some way to make them aware of what’s going on?
PRINCIPAL: Almost all parents appreciate what we do, but they don’t have a clue about what’s going on.
MRS. PETERSON: That’s the truth.
PRINCIPAL: I wish I could work with you to figure out how to get parents involved, but I have a meeting with some School Board members. They have big plans for Teacher Appreciation Week.