Some Parents Angered by Teacher's Letter : Education: The correspondence, which went to all teachers in the Fullerton district, described a "far-right presence." One mother calls it highly inflammatory.


A letter circulated among teachers in the Fullerton School District has angered some parents who say it is a personal attack on them.

Lori Shanebeck, who said she removed her two sons from Raymond Elementary School to teach them at home, told school board members she considers the letter "highly inflammatory."

"I somewhat resent the 'far-right' name-calling," she said. "I can tell you that I have talked to at least 50 or 60 parents, and they are not happy."

The letter was written by Anita Smiley, president of the Fullerton Elementary Teachers Assn., and a member of North Orange County United Teachers, a coalition of several school districts. It was sent to all teachers in the Fullerton district.

It states, in part, "There appears to be a group of community members, some with children in the schools and some who have taken their children out of our schools, working in a loose coalition to establish a far-right presence in our district. . . ."

"These folks have every right to their beliefs, to visit our schools, to participate as parents and to address the school board," the letter continued. "They do not, however, reflect the majority view of our district's parents. But they are bent . . . on imposing their minority view. We must be vigilant."

Shanebeck, 38, said a copy of the letter was given to her by a teacher.

She told school trustees during the public comment portion of Tuesday's board meeting that she and other parents are a target of criticism because they have objected to a 2-year-old curriculum called "It's Elementary!"

The state-approved curriculum outlines ways to develop skills such as public speaking and group techniques, said Pat Puleo, the district's director of instructional services.

Smiley said teachers are not required to use "It's Elementary!" but many do because it "works toward producing literate members of society."

Shanebeck, an instructor at Biola University, said she began home-schooling last year, however, because her sons were not learning how to spell, read or write.

"I want my kids to be taught the basics of grammar," she said. "I want them to know phonics. We're tired of all the gardening, cooking and touchy-feely, creative and group projects."

Smiley defended both the curriculum and her letter, saying it was drafted in response to teacher concerns over parental complaints about their methods. She insisted that it did not specifically target Shanebeck or others with similar concerns.

School board member Anthony Valla said, "I would like to see us look at the issue more seriously."

He suggested that the concerned parents meet with Smiley personally and perhaps serve on a task force to evaluate school curriculum.

"I admire the courage of these parents, speaking out," Valla said. If "It's Elementary!" is "a program that is not serving children well, then maybe we should look into this."

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