Loudoun County, Virginia, mother A.K. Carpenter told the Daily Caller that she was able to opt her child out of a critical race theory-inspired lesson plan following a months-long battle with leadership in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS).
LCPS is a “licensed user” of Second Step Programs, a branch of the left-leaning non-profit organization Committee for Children. In recent months, some Loudoun County parents raised issues with the district publicly about the program’s ties to critical race theory.
Carpenter told the Daily Caller that once she became aware of Second Step, she wanted her child removed from the programming because it has ties to “extreme ideology.”
On Sept. 28, parents were informed via email that LCPS would implement “Second Step Bullying Prevention Curriculum … district wide for elementary grades K-5” for the 2021-2022 school year. The email, reviewed by the Daily Caller, said that Second Step’s social-emotional learning curriculum is “taught daily” by classroom teachers in LCPS.
Carpenter requested that her child be removed from Second Step lessons and provided with an “alternate activity,” such as reading, within 30 minutes of receiving the email.
“As [my child’s] parents, we discuss this topic at home and we do not wish for [our child] to be taught this curriculum … and any literature that addresses gender identity, LGBTQ, etc. content, and sex,” Carpenter said in an email to Lovettsville Elementary School Principal Linda Textoris.
Textoris confirmed via email that she would speak with Carpenter’s teacher to confirm that her child would be removed during all Second Step lessons.
On Oct. 12, Carpenter received an email from her child’s teacher and a counselor apologizing for allowing the child to remain in the classroom during a Second Step lesson. Carpenter told the Daily Caller that she felt the teacher and counselor were genuinely apologetic, though she reiterated her wishes to have “oversight” on her “impressionable daughter” as she feels Second Step programming is ridden with “extreme ideologies.”
Eight days later, Carpenter received an email from her child’s principal saying that her child could no longer opt-out of Second Step learning programs.
“Thank you for your request to opt [your child] out of all SEL and Bullying Lessons. I understand your concerns, but I do want to let you know that parents generally do not have a right to opt out of the public school curriculum for their children except for Family Life Education,” Textoris said. “Virginia law actually requires that character education be taught in our schools, and the Virginia Department of Education has provided Social-Emotional Learning Guidance standards for public school divisions as well. While I understand that you may disagree or object to some of the materials, unfortunately, we cannot fundamentally alter the educational curriculum for each student at the request of their parents while still complying with our legal and professional obligations.”
A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education told the Daily Caller that while implementing emotional learning in schools is law in Virginia, the state only offers “guidance” for social-emotional learning.
Per the district’s licensing agreement with Second Step, parents cannot view the curriculum online and must schedule in-person meetings with administrators. A previous version of the district’s licensing agreement forced parents to sign an NDA-style form, though a more updated version removed the signature portion. (RELATED: Loudoun County Forces Parents To Sign NDA-Style Form To View CRT-Inspired Curriculum)
LCPS spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Daily Caller that the district asked Second Step to “drop any restrictions involving the inspection of their product,” and the organization complied.
Carpenter told Textoris that the “lack of visibility” for viewing Second Step programming is a “huge problem” and was part of the reason why she wished to opt her child out. Texotris said that the school would not “be excusing [her child] from any future lessons” until Carpenter came in for an in-person meeting to review the curriculum. The duo set a meeting date for Nov. 15.
The Nov. 15 meeting was cut short following a miscommunication between Textoris and Carpenter, who brought an “education advocate” to the meeting. Textoris sounded upset that Carpenter brought a third party, per audio recording obtained by the Daily Caller. The curriculum review meeting was rescheduled to Dec. 6.
Textoris invited LCPS’s social-emotional learning curriculum leaders Lindsay Orme and Devon Becker to the Dec. 6 meeting, where they confirmed to Carpenter and education advocate Tiffany Polifko that social-emotional learning is implemented in every elementary school in LCPS.
Carpenter reiterated to administrators that she feels Second Step programming and social-emotional learning writ-large is at odds with her political, religious and moral beliefs.
“I really feel that this program has resources in it that are absolutely against our political and religious beliefs system. I do not agree with having my [child] exposed to this,” Carpenter said to administration, according to an audio recording of the meeting.
Carpenter and Polifko told the Daily Caller that they never reviewed the Second Step curriculum during the meeting. The duo went back and forth with the administration until it became clear that the only resolution would be to pull Carpenter’s child from Second Step programming.
On Dec. 10, Carpenter emailed the administration thanking them for “officially allowing [her child] to be opted out of all Second Step Program Lessons.” Lovettsville Elementary Counselor Jennifer French responded, “thanks for the update.”
Textoris did not respond to Carpenter’s email at the time of publication.