Books Depicting Alcoholic Parents Draw Objections

December 12, 1990|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Books depicting alcoholic parents and lessons encouraging children to "assertively stand up to their parents and tell them no" should not be used in Carroll's elementary classrooms, says school board member Cheryl A.

McFalls.

Her objections prompted the Board of Education to pull two curriculum guides containing those materials from consideration last month. The board, though, is expected to take action on the items today after educators provide an overview of the materials.

"I've read the curriculum guides. I've read the books that I had questions about," McFalls said. "I'm still uncomfortable with them and feel I need to vote against them."

Specifically, McFalls said she objects to the use of two books, "I Wish Daddy Didn't Drink So Much" and "Sometimes My Mom Drinks Too Much" in substance abuse prevention lessons because they do not portray parents as positive role models.

"I believe in dealing with alcoholism, but this could be handled without having the mother or father portrayed as an alcoholic," McFalls said. "I'm certainly not naive enough to believe we don't have alcoholic parents in our community."

McFalls' concerns, however, are not shared by Board President T. Edward Lippy, who said he expected the board to approve both curriculum guides.

"If it was a perfect world, we wouldn't need these materials," Lippy said. "But it's not. I don't see anything wrong with the materials. I think they're appropriate."

If the curriculum guides are approved, the books would be included only as optional materials in lessons for first- and second-grade students, said Marjorie R. Lohnes, supervisor of home economics and health. They also would be placed in school libraries, she added.

"I think they're beautiful books," Lohnes said. "They're not presenting parents in a bad light, but as people with a disease or a problem. These parents love their children."

She said research shows children often believe they are to blame for the behavior of an alcoholic parent. The books, she said, help children understand that the parent's problem has nothing to do with them.

McFalls, who objected to an AIDS video for fourth-graders earlier this year, also said she has concerns about a "fantasy" exercise in the substance abuse prevention program and about the "humanistic" approach of a student enrichment lesson.

The board member objects to one of the six fantasies in a student activity kit that she said teaches children to stand up to their parents after a rule has been established.

"I just don't see our school system as needing to teach children to go against what their parents have set as rules or guidelines," McFalls said.

The scenario involves a child who has been invited to a party where the guests dress up as super heros. The parent says the child can wear a brother's Superman clothes. The student is told to think about how to tell the parent he or she doesn't want to wear that costume and to think about how the costume can be made without spending a lot of money.

"It's a matter of opening communication between the child and the parent and talking to the parent about another idea," Lohnes said. "Even if the parent said no, the child had the opportunity to communicate."

William J. Piercy, supervisor of extended enrichment, business and computer education, said the enrichment lessons help third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students feel good about themselves through written exercises that focus on personal likes and dislikes.

"We feel it's an important part of what a student needs to have in class," Piercy said. "We don't want to change children, but make them aware of themselves and accept who they are."

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