The District 200 school board is presenting their proposed policy change to suppress public comment as simply a way to protect the reputations of teachers. The June 28 Wednesday Journal headline reads: OPRF looks to limit public criticism of teachers.

“[Barry] Greenwald said the board’s policy review is meant to protect the reputations of faculty members who might be slandered in an open forum.” That gives the board a good public relations spin on their oppressive policy proposal, but it’s not based in reality.

1) Parents who have been arguing for much needed improvements in OPRF special education have never mentioned individual teachers’ names in public, much less slandered them. We have been critical of the administration but not teachers, yet we have been accused of attacking teachers and ruining their reputations on several occasions.

2) The board’s ploy is to define almost everyone in special education administration as a teacher?#34;even administrators who have not taught in decades.

3) It goes far beyond restricting criticism of an individual teacher. The actual wording says that a member of the public needs the prior “approval of the Board of Education President … (to) address the entire board about the disputed issues or complaint.” So the public can be prevented from making their comment on an issue at a board meeting even if they are not referring to a staff person.

4) Parents’ comments have concerned legitimate issues such as meaningful curriculum, accountability, respectful treatment of our children, the achievement gap, accommodations, the overuse of the school’s attorney, staff training, disability rights, etc. Too many people currently in power at OPRF are simply refusing to acknowledge the reality of these concerns.

Oak Park and River Forest High School is an enormous, complex institution with many outstanding programs and many persistent problems. When the Dist. 200 school board is more concerned with ending the public discussion of those problems than in resolving them, we can be assured they will be with us for many years to come.

Terry Burke
Oak Park

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