Here is Principal Glenn Burns' letter of response, in its entirety:
This weekend it was brought to my attention that some of our community members became concerned over a World History II assignment asking scholars to apply their knowledge of fascism to a current world leader. I understand this concern and assure you that these concerns of political bias are taken seriously.
The Haverhill High School History Department works diligently to engage scholars in relevant and thought-provoking tasks and sometimes when developing these lessons “hot-button” issues are discussed. As we support the thinkers and problems solvers of tomorrow we believe it is imperative that our scholars are supported to grapple with and debate these topics in a safe space. With that being said, not every lesson is developed perfectly and feedback is necessary to bring to our attention that we missed the mark and have created a learning opportunity that skews the thinking of our scholars. I recognize that there is a balance that must be found when discussing current issues and we will continue to work to find this balance while providing our scholars relevant and engaging learning experiences.
The assignment that was brought to my attention this week was developed to assess scholars’ ability to apply correctly Dr. Britt’s 14 characteristics of a fascist leader. At the time of development, it was believed scholars would be highly interested and engaged in debating what, if any of these, characteristics Donald Trump exhibited. The scholars were provided a graphic organizer for each characteristic and a place to write evidence from the texts they read as to why or why not Trump demonstrated that characteristic. Scholars were provided multiple texts to read which were from noted conservative, liberal and neutral news organizations so that scholars could see for themselves evidence of bias.
Upon reflecting with a team from the History Department on the assignment, “Some People Claim that Donald Trump is a Fascist: Time to check it Out!” it was evident to us that the prompt may have skewed the debate or provided the perception that we were looking for scholars to prove Donald Trump was a fascist. This was not the intention of the assignment and we apologize to those that felt that was the experience we were trying to create. Our team discussed at length how to provide a more balanced prompt that could enrich this topic and discussion.
I believe that debate and discussion grounded in research and facts is imperative to providing our scholars the tools and skills necessary to be successful in our ever-changing world. We will continue to provide our scholars opportunities to debate and engage in controversial topics because this is at the heart of how positive change and innovation happens. We will take better notice of the development and delivery of lessons to make sure that the outcomes of the assignment are not skewed by the prompts of the lesson.
As we move forward, I believe that for Haverhill High School to reach the goals we have set we will need to strengthen our home-school communication. With that said, I encourage all members of our community to reach out directly to Haverhill High School staff or myself to discuss any matters of concern or celebration. This type of open dialogue will strengthen our school community and ability to support all learners in reaching their potential.