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Hamburg parent aghast at movies shown to special education class

HAMBURG — Hamburg School District parent Terry Dunford described what recently occurred in his 13-year-old daughter’s special education class as “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Scenes from R-rated horror movies, including the stabbing murder of a nude woman in the shower, in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” were shown by a teacher to Dunford’s daughter and her special education classmates, as part of a course lesson provided to the district by Scholastic™, which supplies educational materials to school districts.

District officials were left to answer questions related to such material’s being shown to seventh-grade students. Dunford, who spoke at the board’s special meeting held at Hamburg Middle School Oct. 30, added that several parents of freshmen students had complained about reading choices offered to their children, including books depicting graphic sex scenes, as well as a rape of a young girl.

Dunford added that, along with “Psycho,” other disturbing scenarios were shown to the seventh grade class from horror movies “The Shining” and “Child’s Play.”

“It appalls me that a professional would show such a scene,” Dunford said to board members, regarding the “Pyscho” murder depiction. “I’m disgusted by this action. This isn’t college, where you have academic freedom. When’s the last time you looked at the curriculum? You were elected to protect our children. Our values are not in ‘Psycho,’ Jack Nicholson jamming an ax through the door in ‘The Shining’ while terrorizing his wife and young child, and from ‘Chuckie,’ whose character goes on to commit murder, throughout the film.”

Dunford asked that school district officials send a letter informing parents of a solution to the problems he presented, as well as a letter sent to Scholastic, asking for its chosen topics of dissemination. He criticized Scholastic’s selection of such material.

According to the school, the aforementioned lesson in the special education class covered the topic of how sights and sounds can generate fear.

The parent cited his own career as an administrator and said that he is “heartbroken” that his daughter came home in such an upset manner, after the questionable material was shown.

“My 13-year-old was terrified,” he said. “She asked me about the girl in the shower and the knife on the floor. This is not appropriate for minor children. R-rated movies are R-rated for a reason. Have we become so de-sensitized to crime and violence that we think it’s OK to show R-rated material to a kid? Is this what we’ve come to, in America?”

The parent said that he has met with the school principal and interim superintendent regarding the matter and has received a verbal and written apology.

After the meeting, several board members expressed surprise about Dunford’s assertions.

The parent said that, seven years ago, he and his wife adopted three orphaned children from Poland. Dunford said that the progressive transition for the 13-year-old in the classroom setting was not aided by her viewing objectionable movie scene material.
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