March 14, 2018
Over the last two months, there has been significant discussion and media attention on the assembly and activities held at Oconomowoc High School (OHS) on January 15th for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Inaccurate information has been shared across social media, including claims that the Oconomowoc Area School District (OASD) “banned curriculum about privilege and diversity.” These claims aren’t accurate, even though they’re being shared on social media as fact. These are the facts:
The assembly and activities at OHS on January 15th were developed by students and teachers to generate discussion on the themes of respect, empathy, and privilege. Following the assembly, students were dismissed to their Pride Period, where teachers were provided an optional empathy and privilege discussion and exercise to share with students. It’s important to clarify that Pride Period is similar to homeroom, and not the same as a structured classroom with a set curriculum, required assignments, and graded work. Some Pride rooms did not participate in the additional exercise and opted to discuss their thoughts and opinions of the assembly instead. However, many Pride rooms did participate in the optional empathy and privilege activities.
Some OHS parents and community members expressed concern over the discussion of privilege within this setting, rather than a classroom where it is a part of the curriculum. Shortly after the January 15th assembly, a teacher and student group proposed holding a “privilege walk” as an optional activity during Pride Period. The teacher was asked not to hold that activity during the Pride Period, and that response was intended only for Pride Period offerings. Asking a teacher not to hold this activity is not the same thing as removing diversity programming from our classrooms or banning the discussion of privilege within our curriculum. To be clear, neither of those things has occurred. This point has been either misunderstood or misrepresented in the ongoing media coverage of the subject. Curriculum on diversity and the discussion of privilege has never been removed, nor will it be removed, from our courses.
We live in polarizing times and although many people from around the country have posted negative things about our community and district on social media, that negativity is based on inaccurate information. The Oconomowoc Area School District will always be a place that respects the diversity among people and cultures.