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Controversial Curriculum

Sources of Strength Elementary Curriculum

This content does not adequately meet a community standard. It is controversial and you will create a divide by implementing this. I believe there is an academic focused health curriculum that meets state standards without creating controversy, but Sources of Strength is not it.

The emotional regulation language and tools are likely customary to social workers, therapists and psychologists, but do not align with practices and language in many homes. Examples from the curricular resource include a frequent focus and teaching student about their regulation and dysregulation; teaching children they are either regulated or dysregulated. They are asked to frequently evaluate “What do I feel in my body?” “What emotion do I feel?” “How big is the emotion?” “What will I do to regulate myself?” This is not how we talk about emotions and behaviors in our household, nor is it how we want to talk about emotions and behaviors.

The emotional regulation lessons artificially create “dysregulation” and teach children that they are dysregulated when they may be experiencing normal, natural, healthy, and even protective emotions. Confusion will be created by instructing children that they need to regulate both their emotions and energy levels. The idea is to stay regulated and children’s emotions and energy are compared to a thermostat. Really, the goal is it to create conforming behavior. If you cry after your pet dies, you are dysregulated and you need an uplifting activity to help you regulate. If you are board in class or tired from not sleeping well, you are dysregulated and need to use an energizing activity. If you are cheering for your teammates, you are dysregulated and need a calming activity. If you are mad and stick up to a bully, maybe you should have used a calming activity like mediation or the breathing square.

Students are asked to apologize to each other in front of the entire class during circle time. This gives the student being apologized to no control over what is shared in front of the teacher and peers. I asked my daughter about this and she was mortified. “They wouldn’t do that!” “Why would they do that?” “An apology is nobody’s business except the person apologizing and the person being apologized to.” Why would we further embarrass a student who has already been the victim of a poor behavior?

The guidance given to children about accessing their strengths for coping is not under the close supervision of parents. It may in fact end up being contrary to what parents are trying to foster in the home. The guidance could lead student to withdrawing and becoming isolated or even showing compulsive behaviors. A shutdown in communication with family members and friends may occur, leaving issues not adequately resolved.

This program redefines mental health and states that Mental Health is the presence and practice of the Strengths and strategies that contribute to our wellbeing. This includes connecting to Trusted Adults [not specifically parents] and mental health professional for support. In other words, children are left to believe if you do not practice these Sources of Strength materials, you cannot achieve mental health.

This redefines the family as “immediate, extended or family of choice, the people who support, nurture, and care for us.” This theme of Family of Choice gets stronger in the secondary program and will lead to children making their own determination about if their family is an adequate support for them and could encourage them to select “chosen family” over their immediate family.

This is a one-size fits all program that not all students, classrooms or schools want, need or will benefit from. It has the real potential to cause harm. People are calling this group therapy and psychotherapy. I don’t the legal definitions of these, but if this is people’s perception after reviewing the materials, this is obviously way off course.

This is not an academic health lesson, nor is it graded. It is a program that spans each school year from Kindergarten through 5th grade, and beyond. It consumes academic time for “health lessons” that only meet a portion of the Idaho State Curriculum Standards. This goes far beyond what is required and eats into critical academic learning. What is required could be done in a few lessons.

Additionally, I was told that we were not out of compliance with the State Health Curriculum Standards.

This program is linked to the CASEL standards. CASEL foundation partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative foundation. Parents in this community do not want their children’s education driven by these organizations.

This program is a violation of privacy through the questions that students are asked in classroom discussion and written activities. Questions touch on sensitive areas that are protected by the Pupil Privacy Protection Act and ethical codes, which protect students from personal inquiry like this without parental consent.

The lesson format provides a window into a child’s life, their support system and personal challenges. While I believe the intent of CDA staff is likely good, it’s an undeniable fact that predators work in our schools. They will take advantage of information like this. Although students may discuss issues related to these issues with their friends, the school has no business probing into these areas without parental consent.

Sources of Strength seems to give a lot of leeway in how the program is used. They want school districts to take ownership and make it part of their culture. When I look at Sources of Strength social media, I see a lot of campaigns focused on sexual identity. Sources of Strength has a position statement about their support for pronouns and names of choice. Their position statement says “In trainings, Sources will invite people to introduce themselves, stating their names, pronouns, and either their grade in school, or their role in the school/community….We also invite all of our trainers to use people’s name, and work to remove gendered language from their vocabulary (i.e. friends, y’all, folks, sophomores, instead of guys and girls. You can be an Agent of Change. Asking an individual what their pronouns are, and consistently using them correctly, is a way to show your respects, to honor and acknowledge the person in front of you. It sets a tone for allyship, for safety, and for ensuring that our Sources Teams create space for everyone to experience belonging….The use of pronouns in our work isn’t a preference, it’s a protocol and a priority.”

Looking at their social media, they recognize Pride Month, International Women’s Day, Black History Month, but make no mention of Independence Day, President’s Day, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and other common holidays celebrated by this community. This all leads to questions about how this program could be used to influence our children.

The materials are not evidence based. The elementary program states that it is “evidence informed” based off of the secondary program. There is one peer reviewed study at the secondary level. No one has been able to supply evidence of outcomes related to bullying, suicide, or improved academics. Sources of Strength has been around for 24 years. There are no completed studies at the elementary level. I reached out to Sources of Strength myself and they still could not provide anything related to any outcomes.

I came into this process with an open mind. I spent many hours reviewing these materials, joined each meeting that Katie hosted for us, and listened to everyone’s different viewpoints. The CDA team behind this cares about students in this community, but I hold firm that this is not a resource that should be broadly applied to all students. Those children who need extra support should have other avenues to help them. Materials like this are a large part of why two seats turned over in the last board election, why the recent levy failed and why families are opting for other educational options. This controversial material should be rejected outright and class time should not be utilized for this. If adopted by a school district, this is a program that should require active parental consent and opt-in for any child to participate. This also should not be adopted anywhere without clear success metrics and the program should be dropped if identified goals are not being achieved."

By E.D.

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