In Open Letter, Hudson Board of Education Members Say They and Their Families Received Personal Threats After Dumb 'Inappropriate Writing Prompt' Scandal

click to enlarge The book that drove the dumbest scandal in recent memory - 642 Things to Write About cover
642 Things to Write About cover
The book that drove the dumbest scandal in recent memory

"While we have received many supportive comments about this matter, it was deeply disturbing to also receive personal threats aimed at us and our families," Hudson Board of Education President David Zuro wrote in an open letter to the community this week, which he also read at last night's board of education meeting. "That is not the Hudson we know."

"This matter" is the "scandal" over adult-themed writing prompts that appear in a supplemental resource for senior students who were enrolled in a college-level writing course.

That the resource had been used for five years without any objections by parents, that the specific, offending prompts — two involving sex and one involving alcohol — had never been assigned, that parents needed to sign a waiver for their kids to enter the course because it might contain adult themes and content, none of that mattered.

After some parents raised concerns, more hysterically joined in and drove the story into news outside of the suburb. Mayor Craig Shubert fanned the flames this month when he appeared at a board of education meeting and said: “It has come to my attention that your educators are distributing essentially what is child pornography in the classroom. I’ve spoken to a judge this evening and she’s already confirmed that. So I’m going to give you a simple choice: either choose to resign from this board of education or you will be charged."

The prompts were, of course, not "essentially" child pornography nor anywhere approaching it, but again, that didn't matter. Breathless and frenzied media stories put Hudson in daily local headlines and vaulted the "scandal" into national headlines and red-meat fodder for Facebook.

What happened next was predictable: Zuro said board members and their families were indeed subjected to threats over the scandal that wasn't a scandal at all, where the facts proved it wasn't from the very start, and all when the board is dealing with Very Real Actual Concerns, like keeping students safe and in school during the pandemic.

The open letter, written by Zuro on behalf of the entire Hudson board of education, addresses that and more. You can read it in its entirety below.

As the body entrusted to oversee Hudson City Schools, the Hudson City School District Board of Education wants to acknowledge the feedback we've received regarding a supplemental resource used in our high school's College Credit Plus writing section. Having lived in Hudson for many years, all of us on the Board know and appreciate that this is a community where residents are engaged and have high expectations for the caliber of education our schools provide — an education recognized for its academic rigor and depth.

Essential to that academic rigor and depth is the opportunity for our students to participate in advanced-level and college-level courses, such as the College Credit Plus writing course that included the supplemental resource which raised concerns. This CCP writing section is an elective course offered to our seniors as an opportunity to simultaneously receive high school and college credit. Like all of our CCP classes, a waiver is provided to parents acknowledging that the curriculum may include adult themes and content. While a journal containing 642 pre-printed writing prompts was used as a supplemental resource in the writing section, the small number of prompts drawing attention were never part of any assignment in the class.

Nonetheless, when questions surfaced regarding this writing journal, our administrators acted quickly and collected it from students enrolled in the class, showing the responsiveness we believe is a Hudson Schools' hallmark. We heard from additional parents and community members at our board meeting, where Superintendent Herman noted that the District also has arranged an independent review of our College Credit Plus supplemental materials selection process.

Review of all course materials used at Hudson Schools is the responsibility of the administration and staff as it rightly should be, and is not done by our Board. However, as your board of education — as your representatives to the Hudson City School District — we promise we will work with the District's administration and staff to make any needed changes the review identifies. We also promise we will continue to make sure our students have access to the outstanding academic offerings that set Hudson apart from other districts in our region. Many parents have told us that College Credit Plus has significantly enhanced their child's learning experience and also has been a real asset in offsetting the daunting costs associated with a college education. We want to make sure these classes continue to serve as a valuable part of our high school curriculum.

Every one of us on the Board has had, or has, children in our schools. We know from firsthand experience the excellent education Hudson's students receive. We were all motivated to serve as board members to support our students, staff and administrators, and provide the oversight to maintain Hudson Schools as a shining example of quality education in challenging times.

In fact, we are the only the latest in a long line of individuals who have worked tirelessly for decades with our community, our teachers and staff to create a school system that embraces excellence. Our high school is consistently ranked in the top 2% of high schools in Ohio and the top 2.5% of high schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Hudson High School has been honored as a National Blue Ribbon Award Winner and a Straight-A Ohio High School. We are proud to note that 93% of our students attend college.

While we have received many supportive comments about this matter, it was deeply disturbing to also receive personal threats aimed at us and our families. That is not the Hudson we know, and we firmly believe it is not how the vast majority of Hudsonites want to be known.

The past few years have been unprecedented for public school systems across our nation. We know we are not the only school district to experience volatile board meetings and criticism of board members and administrators. However, we also know our community's character. We know the citizens of Hudson want our city to be known as a place where even difficult concerns can be raised and addressed in a respectful manner.

We want to thank those who have voiced their support for our teachers and administrators — and for us — in the face of these questions about College Credit Plus. And we also want to thank those who have courteously expressed their dissatisfaction. We have always encouraged our community to be informed about our schools and take an active interest in what we do and why. We will continue to listen to your input, work to meet your expectations and serve this community as nonpartisan representatives whose only agenda is the success of our students.

- David Zuro, Board President on Behalf of the Board of Education

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Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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