About 200 people gathered to give the Alpine School District a warning on Tuesday: This is just the beginning of a fight for change.
Parents packed themselves into several rooms and the hallway to protest what they called overt socialism pervading the district on several fronts.
Parental unrest centered on a link on the district's Web page that was quietly removed on Feb. 16. Titled "America: Republic or Democracy?" the link led directly to an essay by William P. Meyers, a California-based writer who heralds his belief that Jesus Christ is one in a long string of "historic vampires."
Opening Tuesday's meeting, board president Debbie Taylor read a seven-paragraph statement on the board's behalf, calling the Web link a "serious mistake" that does not represent the values of the district. Elected officials repeatedly said they appreciated the concern of parents. But parents were not easily mollified. They demanded an investigation, and systemic change.
"I have been warned my whole life to watch for signs of socialism," said Highland resident Susan Schnell, who organized Tuesday's rally. She outlined her parents' escape from Stalinist Ukraine. "We are now seeing our nation collapse because of socialistic ideas. Our Constitution is hanging by a thread, no doubt."
The district is producing students who are "uninformed and misinformed" about American heritage, she said. "We have been naive. We put our trust in government leaders, and that includes the school board, and they have let us down. We have awakened."
Schnell said her family left California for Utah's conservative values, only to find Alpine district "involved in pushing a dangerous agenda" by trying to supersede the culture taught to children by parents.
"Correct education starts at home," Schnell said. "The schools should be an extension of that, not an enculturation factory that undermines the home ... Please be careful to follow the Founding Fathers and not the educated elite who follow a socialist agenda."
Ending on that, Schnell got a long standing ovation from the audience.
Stephen Pratt gave elected officials copies of the book "The Five Thousand Year Leap" and gave a slideshow showing in part that President Obama's socialist agenda includes promoting national gay pride, doubling the national debt, taxing energy, creating a United Nations army, and "enculturating the young into our social and political democracy" -- a line taken directly from a subset of the school district's mission statement.
Other parents said the district's mission statement must change, and should reflect a desire to provide children a lifelong love of learning, and not much more.
"We hope the new mission statement will focus less on adults and their politics and more on excellence in academics," said one parent, also receiving a standing ovation from the audience.
Parents objected to words in the mission statement including "nurture" and "morals" saying those are the job of the family, and the district should stay out. One parent objected to a school newsletter which said it takes a village to raise a child.
"It is my job to nurture my kids," said one parent. "That relationship is between me and my kids. Your job is to teach correct reading and writing ... Teaching morals is my job. Please don't usurp my right."
"Our children are at the charter schools because we have been very unhappy with the (district) schools," said one parent.
Several parents warned district officials that simply removing socialist "code words" from the district mission policy would not begin to address the issue. The district's entire philosophy must change.
Parents found "entire phrases that come from socialism or social democracy" in a hallway brochure meant to promote the district.
"It is not the end of the discussion," said one parent, saying a socialist Web link could not accidently appear on the district's Web site, as district officials have said. "For me, it is a kind of awakening."
Message from the Alpine School District Board of Education, read by board members in response to parental concerns on Tuesday regarding socialism in the school district:
"We appreciate the opportunity to correct a serious misunderstanding about Alpine School District that has occurred because of a link that was accidentally and briefly on our Web site. The link was inappropriate and does not reflect the beliefs or values of the district, administration or school board. The superintendent had it removed as soon as he became aware of it. We appreciate those who brought it to our attention.
"The ASD Mission Statement, 'Educating all students to ensure the future of our democracy' was developed as a reminder of the importance of education in preserving our freedoms and as a celebration of the educational opportunities that America provides for all her children; boys and girls, rich and poor. We chose our democracy2⁄3 to reflect both a government with power vested in the people and our freedoms. We not only recognize that our government is a republic, but we value and participate in this form of government with an elected board of education. The use of the word democracy underscores the type of republic found in the United States.
"Our mission statement is supported by our values, four principles grounded in the 'moral dimensions of teaching.' They are: one, all children should have access to a quality education; two, public education has a responsibility to teach children the social and political skills they need to successfully contribute in America's culture of freedom, law, and civic responsibility; three, every child needs a quality teacher to ignite their love of learning, and; four, we have a stewardship to the children for these things.
"The phrase, 'Enculturating the Young into a Social and Political Democracy,' is the formal language for principle number two above. It is displayed in the Professional Development Center, with America's patriotic documents contained in the Freedom Shrine, and is to recognize and celebrate the rights, responsibilities and sacrifices required for liberty in our country. There are many activities that occur in the daily life of schools that build civic virtues. These include such things as respect for others, obedience to rules and laws, service to country and patriotism, etc. We recognize that this phrase is not user friendly and since the word meanings have changed over time we need to revisit this.
"ASD is committed to continuous improvement and to the public2⁄3 in public education. We do not make decisions in isolation or by emotion. We have in place an extensive feedback and decision-making process, both formal and informal, that includes all the stakeholders of education: parents, employees, city officials, legislators, students, business, and community members. By the time an issue comes to the board for a vote, it has been through months of research, evaluation, input, feedback and revision through this process.
"The district mission statement went through this process in 2005. We made refinements and alterations according to the input. In succeeding years, we have again and again taken the mission, vision, values and goals to our representative groups and to the public for their feedback. The board annually reviews the district mission, vision, values and goals as part of our normal processes because it is important to us to be aligned with our community's values. We will do this again this year taking into consideration all the input we have received.
"The ASD board and administration love America and the freedoms we enjoy as a people. We are dedicated to student learning and working with our community to promote student achievement."