Traditional Mountain Culture and Social Justice Culture Clash At BOE Meeting Part 1 of 2

The February 16th Pocahontas Board of Education Meeting took an unexpected turn when upset parents brought their grievances to the board over certain course content being taught in one ELA classroom at PCHS.

Andrew Friel was the first speaker, and he wanted to know who approves the curriculum in the schools. He also expressed concerns with a student questionnaire that asked students to self-reflect on the idea that they should “take time to be sexual,” and  also his concerns about the two books used in the classroom. The first book is entitled “This Book is Anti-Racist” and other one is “The Hate You Give,” Friel said these books have been banned by both Marshall University and the University of Kansas.  Listen as he talks about these books.

“It almost seemed to me that the one book was talking about the good feeling of being high on drugs and going to the parties” Friel said. “One section sort of seemed to me to say how the summer parties lead to winter babies. Things like that. And I just don’t think that should be in our curriculum. Like to know if you can look into that.”

John Burks also spoke his concerns. Here are a few excerpts of what he said.

“My first concern is the curriculum that is being taught in our schools” said Burks. “the first is titled ‘This Book is Anti-Racist, Twenty Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work.’ Sounds like they are wanting to make anti-racist activists out of our kids. And it also goes on to say … every religion is anti-racist except the educated, working class white man who is a Christian. I find that completely appalling… Also (the book) ‘The Hate You Give.’ is full of sex, drugs, and plenty of ‘F-bombs’ and all other cuss words.”

Burks also went on to express his anger at the student survey, and the teaching of personal politics in the classroom.

“Also, there was a survey passed out in a class” said Burks. “It was a student self-reflection … So, this survey is asking our kids -yours and mine- to self-reflect on ‘take time to be sexual.’ Also, there is personal politics and beliefs being taught in our schools. Again, this is coming from one class, and there’s been several students who have verified this.”

Susan Lane agreed with Mr. Burks, and added that she feels several school policies were violated by the use of these books and of the survey. She said these books actually contribute to racism by “obsessing over race and looking at everything in terms of power and identity politics.”

Amanda Boggs also talked about similar issues with the class material. she also said the following.

“I don’t need my daughter being taught at school that she is a racist simply because she is a white Christian” said Boggs.

Richard Lane and Daniel Boggs also expressed similar outrage.

Susan Ray spoke out in defense of the involved teacher, Samara Mann.

“… So, it wasn’t just a teacher forcing this book down their throats” said Ray. “That’s not what happened, these students actually chose this book. I feel like she is being misrepresented. She is actually a very wonderful teacher who is challenging these students to think about real world situations. We don’t see a lot of racism and things in Pocahontas County because we are primarily a white community. Once they get to college, they are going to be exposed to things they have never seen before, and she is actually preparing them for life outside Pocahontas County.”

Ray went on to justify the use of profanity in at least one of the books.

“They are saying that these kids shouldn’t be exposed to curse words?” said Ray. “These kids are cursing at school! I’ve heard it come out of their mouths. I’m a Substitute Teacher, I’ve been in the school building. They use foul language…”


Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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