Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wheaton Warrenville District 200 Parent Challenges R Movies

From "District 200 Answers Crash Backlash," posted 3/21/07 at the

A black couple are pulled over by police who believe they've spotted the pair engaging in sexual activity. Is that appropriate for a teen to see? How about watching a white supremacist force a black man to place his mouth over a street curb before stomping the back of his head?

Those are scenes from two films - "Crash" and "American History X," respectively - with larger messages about racism. They are both under fire as inappropriate learning tools in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 high schools. School officials will serve as judges in a review of the use of R-rated films in high school classrooms.

The review is prompted in part by Mark Rissman, a district parent who said he feels misled by a permission slip he recently received about the films. Rissman said the permission slip was generic, giving him the impression the R-rated films his son was set to view in a sociology class were harmless. Then he went on the Internet to learn more about "American History X," "Crash" and the unrated documentary "Scared Straight." Rissman has never seen the films.

Web sites described the use of more than 200 "F-words," sex, nudity and violence in the films. All are elements Rissman described as "poison" for young minds. "I don't even know how you'd cut even clips out for students to view," he said. "These are really, really edgy, R-rated movies."

Rissman's son is 16 years old, too young to view the films in a theater without a parent. That's his first objection. The second, he said, is the message sent to students. Rissman said the student conduct manual allows for suspension just for the use of profane language. "It seemed kind of hypocritical to me," he said. "You'd never let a teacher swear in a classroom, but you're letting a surrogate teacher, these films, use that language?"

When Rissman brought his concerns to the district, he said, faculty members were not persuaded not to show the films. His son sat in the library during the film presentations. "They were just adamant about this being very important for our classes to see," Rissman said. "I've really lost a lot of trust for them. "I don't want this school district to go down the path of saying we know better than you how to orient your children to these subjects."

Read the rest of the article.

If you would be willing to support Mr. Rissman on this issue please email