Nat Hentoff's op ed piece on December 20, "Lesson Plan for the Nation", is another example of the media's rush to judgment on Stephen William's lawsuit against the Cupertino Union School District. As a parent of a child who attends Stevens Creek Elementary School, I was outraged by the initial inflammatory news reports which falsely asserted that teaching the Declaration of Independence at our school has been banned. For the record, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and other founding documents are, and have always been taught at our school.
We are not a community where political correctness runs amok. Our children daily recite the Pledge of Allegiance with the proper reference to "under God", sing God Bless America and other patriotic songs, and learn about the meaning of religion in the founding of our nation in an age-appropriate way. In the 5th grade social studies curriculum, living history is incorporated at an overnight camp where students actually re-enact a Revolutionary War encampment and assume the role of British and American soldiers (including singing "God Save the King"!). I am amazed that Mr. Hentoff would spread misinformation about our school without first learning the facts.
The circumstances preceding the lawsuit are complex. What is known within our community is that a number of parents complained to the school principal that Mr. Williams, an evangelical Christian, may have exceeded what is generally acceptable while discussing religion in the classroom on several occasions, which led to the principal reviewing his lesson plans and supplemental hand outs to students. If Mr. Williams felt that he was unfairly treated, or felt strongly that the supplemental documents he wanted to provide his students were important to a balanced curriculum, he could have taken his case to his colleagues at the school, the teacher's union or even the board of education. He did not. Instead he obtained representation by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal organization with a clear political agenda, and filed a lawsuit alleging violation of his constitutional rights. Since then, our wonderful school has been inundated with thousands of hostile letters, e-mails and phone calls, almost entirely from outside of our community, because of the incendiary claim in the ADF's press release that the Declaration of Independence had been banned. I wonder how many more profane, hate filled messages will find their way to our school because of Mr. Hentoff's article.
Stevens Creek Elementary School ranks academically in the top 2% of schools in California. It is an excellent school with a curriculum that enriches our children and challenges them intellectually. More importantly, it is an environment where children, who reflect the diversity of Silicon Valley, can feel at home and where learning takes place. I wish that every child in our nation were blessed with the opportunity to attend a school like ours.