Ames School’s Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action Misses the Mark

If you knew anything about me and my parenting style, you would quickly understand that, while I care about the education of our two boys, I rarely critique the methods used by our schools to educate them.  I will never be accused of being a helicopter parent.  However, after reviewing the curriculum used in the Ames School’s Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action Feb. 1-5, and watching how it has been implemented and defended by district personnel over the past 6 weeks, I continue to have concerns about the path our district has chosen.

For starters, the district selected a poor time to introduce this curriculum.  We were on the tail end of a multi-month debate in our community about kids returning to school for full-time instruction, with many of us simply worn out by the hybrid model.  That week of February was the first week our two boys (7th, 11th grade) were to return to full-time instruction since March 2020.  Teachers already had a lot on their plates that week.  Not only did they face the onset of full classrooms and transitioning to 100% in-person instruction, but they now also had to figure out how to discuss difficult and potentially divisive topics.   

I was equally concerned with the content of this curriculum.  We were lucky enough to see the district’s social media post on January 22nd introducing the week of action.  Many missed it.  This gave us a weekend before the school board meeting to review the lessons and videos that covered BLM’s 13 principles.  Some of the content posted to the Ames website was troubling, being sexually suggestive and going much further than just discussing and making students aware of alternative lifestyles.

At the school board meeting that following Monday, I spoke to board members during the public comment time and shared my concerns.   Some parents, I said, may not want issues of gender identity and sexual orientation to be introduced to their children at school.  I asked that parents would be able to understand what specific topics would be covered each day and be able to opt-out of sessions they did not feel comfortable with.  My wife shared concerns about the lessons with ACSD administration, telling them she felt some of the lessons she had found on their website were not age-appropriate – role-playing out redlining and gender stereotypes are pretty big topics for PK-2nd grade.  

While general lesson information was posted for each day at the middle and high school levels, we found that how teachers implemented these lessons varied greatly.  Some teachers spent considerable time discussing these topics and were quite vocal on their personal beliefs about these things.  Others barely discussed topics at all.  We had parents reach out to us to say they were afraid to speak up when they disagreed with specific topics, for fear of retaliation from teachers. 

In sum, we feel that the district could have chosen a much less politically charged curriculum than one that directly adopted the platform of the Black Lives Matter movement.  We are disappointed ACSD did not take the time to slow down and consider their long-term goals and trajectory when looking at such diverse issues as bullying, poverty, and disparate academic performance.  These are complex issues and are not solved easily or quickly.  We fully support addressing all these issues.  However, in adopting the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, they missed an opportunity for true dialogue and progress.  We are now stuck in a quagmire of controversy, and hearing from parents who are working through the process of deciding if Ames is the district for their kids next year.

Marc Peterson – Ames, IA

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ACSD Has Gone Too Far

My concerns with the Ames School District administrator’s use of the BLM curriculum in their pk-12 schools is that they have done an injustice to the celebration of diversity, diluted discussions concerning race and justice and that they have violated civil rights of creedal neutrality by unilaterally teaching one belief system in a public school.  


First and foremost, I wholeheartedly support meaningful conversations on race and justice.  I support discussions on the tragedy in our country’s history around racial inequity and injustice.  Sadly, the ACSD administrators have used the mask of racial justice with the title, BLM, to indoctrinate students on issues of gender, sexuality, and identity.  Furthermore, instead of embracing diversity of thought with a balanced discussion of many views, these administrators have overstepped the bounds of a public school by teaching an ideology as if there is only one monolithic view.  


One example of a belief that was taught as a fact to children grades PK-12 in the ACSD BLM curriculum included the principle that “Everybody has the right to choose their own gender and by listening to their own heart and mind.  Everyone gets to choose if they are a girl or a boy or both or neither or something else, and no one else gets to choose for them.” 


If a public school were to support freedom to exercise religion and speech in the classroom, this would also mean that there would be inherent dichotomous conflicts on issues like this example of gender and sexual morality.  The ACSD did not present balanced views on this topic and additionally, shamed those who were not in agreement with this principle.  As a result, the ACSD violated the civil rights and freedom of speech of many students, families, and teachers in the district who had varying beliefs.


A direct quote from Dr. Anthony Jones, ACSD Director of equity, exposes the aims of the administration to exclusively teach an ideology in an article published by the ISU Daily.  Dr. Jones said,  “What we are doing is bringing ideology into the conversation, but not just ideology, we are also bringing people.  These are not just ideas, so if somebody says they are gay, that is not an idea, we do have gay people in our system. So we aren’t talking about philosophy and ideas that are in the air; we are talking about real people and bringing them into the conversation. If that is political, then yes, it is political.”   


Regardless of a person’s stance on BLM, Dr. Jone’s quote exposes an agenda to teach an ideology, instead of teaching about a range of different ideologies.  Similarly, they are teaching a political movement as if it is the only way to believe, instead of teaching about and critically analyzing a range of different political movements.


In a time where a broad range of views are more apparent than ever, teaching children to respect the civil rights that others have to their own individual thoughts and beliefs has become more important than ever.  Tragically, by solely teaching one ideology, the ACSD administrators have created an environment where students, families, and teachers who do not align with their ideology are ostracized and shamed, which has done the opposite of creating an equitable school system.  As a parent and community member, I would like to see the ACSD administrators aim to teach students that we can disagree AND love each other.  I would like them to teach the importance of treating all people, no matter if they are a democrat, republican, trans-gender person, Christian, Atheist, Muslim, BLM supporter or not, or a believer in any other ideology– with justice, respect, kindness, and human dignity.  

Signed, Anonymous Concerned Ames Parent and Community Member

(As an untenured faculty member at Iowa State University, I do not feel the freedom to exercise my perspective on such a polarizing topic without putting my career in jeopardy.)


**Editors note, While our policy at IFR is not to accept unsigned letters to the editor, we made an exception in this case based on the topic and verification of the author’s place of employment.


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