A Mother’s Journey Through Arizona’s K-12 School System

I am a busy mom of 4 wonderful children and a wife of a hard working husband. I had the best memories of watching each of my children experience their 1st year of school in the Peoria Unified School District (PUSD). Their teachers were kind, engaging and overall the same experience I had in PUSD growing up. My husband and I had the great memories at Frontier Elementary and Sunrise Mountain High School.

Something in the schools changed in January 2021. I noticed a shift in my two older children’s content in the classrooms. My oldest had said he felt uncomfortable one day after watching the Presidential Inauguration in class. I had no clue that both my 2nd grader and 4th grader had a classroom activity that involved the viewing of the inauguration. I reached out to their teachers who have always been very helpful. I was surprised by the reason for the inauguration being shown in class.  I was told by my 4th grader’s teacher that “the team” decided to change the lesson plan from Martin Luther King Jr. week to the viewing of the Inauguration as a “teachable moment” – although the same could not be said of the 2016 inauguration. This is where I began my journey into figuring out what was going on in the District.

I began reaching out to other parents for information and attending Governing Board Meetings. I wanted to know if there were other parents going through similar situations. And of course there was.

I started learning about parental rights under Arizona Revised Statutes and how they applied in the schools. I worked together with a support group of parents. Together we formed a parent Facebook group so we could stay in touch and have meetings to share what we learned. We started going through governing board agendas and seeing what was being voted through. We wanted to learn more about how the process works, how much power came from the Board and how much the Board really knew about what administration is putting into our kid’s education.

One thing I noticed was how little effort the Peoria Unified School District puts into helping parents and the community understand the whole governing board process such as the adoption of district policies, requesting public records and more.

For example, I learned curriculum resource materials are only allowed to be viewed at the district office. We need better access and more effort by the District to make materials /curriculum proposed for Board approval available especially now that so much of the curricula and supplemental materials are digital.

With help from a few people on the outside who knew how things worked, I learned how to request public records on professional Teacher development programs and communication emails in the District that included curriculum.

I talked with other parents about the curriculum and the ideas that were being taught to their kids in the upper grade levels. I learned that topics such as discrimination throughout American history is being taught with black lives matter;  George Floyd, mob mentality, CNN news resource in classroom assignments and students knowing their teachers political affiliation was all showing up in middle school classes.  During all my years as a student in the Peoria Unified School District – K-12 – I never knew any of my teachers’ political affiliations.

I started to learn more about Critical Race Theory and the idea behind diversity, equity and inclusion.

As a parent with two children with disabilities on Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) that affect their everyday lives I thought the inclusion idea was great. But the diversity, equity and inclusion that I had researched was twisted and not actually for children with disabilities.