It all started last year when an eighth-grade English teacher at Forestview Middle School in Baxter accidentally showed her students an unedited version of the movie, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
The PG-13-rated movie, based on a William Shakespeare play, contained nudity, which upset a few parents.
A committee, working with some of those concerned parents, then created a district-wide video use policy to set guidelines for teachers and school staff. The policy had its first reading before the school board last month and will have a second reading at Wednesday's school board Curriculum Committee meeting before being considered for approval at Monday's regular board meeting.
Chris Kelly, Forestview media specialist, said the teacher, who no longer teaches in the district, didn't preview the movie before showing it.
Chris Kelly, media specialist at Forestview Middle School in Baxter, recently spent time organizing materials in the school's video library. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"She made a mistake," Kelly explained. "She didn't preview it. It was actually a good thing because it pushed us in the right direction."
The proposed policy states that all videos shown during the school day must be directly related to the curriculum and not be used as a reward, a time-filler or for entertainment purposes. All videos must be previewed before being shown to students and must be owned by the school or department and not rented or loaned.
Teachers are asked to provide a list of videos to students and their parents at the beginning of the quarter or semester and if any new movies, depending on the rating, are added to the curriculum, parents must be provided a permission slip to allow their child to view them. Students whose parents don't allow them to watch a specific video in class will be provided with what is called a meaningful alternative classroom assignment.
For those videos and programs not listed on the initial syllabus or class/school video list, the following criteria based on the movie ratings system was created:
• Elementary students and middle level students in fifth- through seventh-grades may be shown G-rated movies without permission but require parental permission to view PG-rated moves. These students may never be shown movies rated PG-13 or above.
• Eighth- and ninth-grade students may be shown G- and PG-rated movies without permission but require parental permission to view PG-13 movies. R-rated movies and above may never be shown.
• 10th- through 12th-graders may watch G-, PG, and PG-13-rated movies without permission but require parental permission to view R-rated movies. NC-17 and X-rated movies may never be shown.
The proposed policy may present a small challenge for elementary students and staff, particularly on cold weather days. Sandy Larson, media specialist at Baxter Elementary School, said sometimes movies have been used to keep students occupied during recess when they are kept inside due to the cold.
"Our problem here is we don't have enough supervision over the (teacher) lunch hour," said Larson. "We'll have one aide who has to watch four or five classrooms and it's easier to keep all the kids together. You can have that many students playing on the playground but not in separate classrooms. But we can still watch movies under the new policy as long as they're curriculum-based. It could be something on bullying or about being kind to each other."
BHS Principal Andrea Rusk said her initial concern about the video use policy was that teachers continue to have the professional discretion to choose whether to show videos to their students. But she said the proposed policy addresses concerns that parents and community members may have.
Rusk said BHS offers college courses where the readings are at an adult level. She said the policy doesn't have a one-size-fits-all approach, which is important.
Ben Gervais, a BHS senior, said most of the movies he's watched in school were based on the curriculum.
"There's usually a reason, unless it's Christmas and you just took a test and you watch a Christmas movie," said Gervais.
Alex Rahn, also a BHS senior, said most of the movies he's watched in school also pertain to the curriculum. He said he watched Disney movies in Spanish in his Spanish classes and in a chemistry class they watched the Disney movie, "Flubber." "It was science and involved experiments," said Rahn.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.