An Arizona couple has filed a complaint against their public school’s social studies teacher, saying she violated their parental rights under state law by forcing their daughter to participate in a gruesome class assignment on how 19th-century capitalism oppressed children.
Amy and Shawn Souza told The Washington Times they filed the complaint last week with the state’s Board of Education to hold the seventh-grade teacher accountable for violating the Arizona Parents Bill of Rights.
Since its passage in June 2020, the law allows parents to receive copies of lessons and opt their children out of any curriculum they deem harmful.
“Our parental rights were completely violated. We have a right to participate in our child’s education and guide it and we were not afforded the opportunity to do that,” Mr. Souza said Monday.
“Ideally, I don’t think she should be teaching. I think they can do anything from writing her up to taking away her teaching license,” Mrs. Souza added.
The couple attended the Peoria Unified School Board meeting last Thursday to announce they had filed the complaint, but so far have received no official response.
On Friday, the Peoria Unified School District emailed a brief statement to The Times saying it had not yet received a copy of the complaint from the state.
“We are aware of the Souzas’ concern and worked with them to address it throughout last school year. As of today, we have not heard from the Arizona Department of Education regarding a formal complaint,” wrote Danielle Avery, the district’s chief communications officer.
The state board must investigate the complaint before taking any action or commenting on it.
The Souzas said the complaint contains copies of internal school district emails, obtained through a public records request, that show how officials evaded rather than addressed their concerns.
“Our ultimate goal is to wake up parents who are busy with life and trusting that public schools are looking out for the best interests of their children,” Mr. Souza said.
They said the incident started when their 13-year-old daughter brought home “a picture of the whiteboard in her class with some very questionable things on it” in early March.
The lesson asked students to draw a violent book cover illustrating the barbaric oppression of child workers during the Industrial Revolution, the Western transition to new manufacturing processes that Karl Marx famously critiqued in his 19th-century treatise “The Communist Manifesto.”
“They had their choice of slicing an animal’s neck to bleed it out, children’s ears and fingers falling off from the freezing conditions, and on and on,” Mrs. Souza said. “Our daughter is a sensitive child, and she thought it was grotesque.”
Choosing to exercise their rights under the new law, they emailed the teacher, who responded by promising to give their daughter an alternate assignment and workspace out of earshot of the other children.
But during spring break, they became infuriated when they learned the teacher had made their daughter participate fully in the assignment.
After becoming unsatisfied with the school district’s response, they pulled their daughter out of the school and re-enrolled her in a charter school for the current year.
“We never got any further communication after we pulled our child out,” Mrs. Souza said.
The parents said they first became concerned about the teacher’s lessons in January after students returned from pandemic-enforced virtual learning to classroom instruction.
Although they emailed the teacher several times in the spring semester, they said she deceived them about course content, and added that the internal emails contained in the complaint paint them as troublemakers for speaking up.