Students defend teacher who decorated classroom with political posters

A photo taken inside a Ridgefield High School English class and posted on a local Facebook group earlier this week sparked community discussion over whether or not school administrators could censor signs and posters that some felt were too politically biased.

In the photo, the classroom decorations feature a poster that reads “Black Lives Matter” and a shirt that reads “Science Doesn’t Care About Your Beliefs.” The room also had a drawing of an equal rights symbol and a poster from the Women’s March on Washington D.C.

When asked about the district’s policy regarding what political material teachers are allowed to have in their classroom, Superintendent Dr. Karen Baldwin said that “the ability to deal with controversial issues is one of the basic competencies all students should acquire."

Dr. Baldwin added that the theme of the course is "Living, Meaning, Mattering: Identity and Social Consciousness.”

The class is part of UCONN’s “dual enrollment” program, which allows high school students to take college-level courses while in high school. The parents of students enrolled in the course had to sign off on their child taking the course, Dr. Baldwin confirmed to The Press Wednesday, Sept. 27.

While the course is taught by a teacher from RHS, the readings come from UCONN’s booklist, the superintendent said.

High school students may receive college credit for taking classes in the program.

“This ‘controversy’ has facilitated some excellent discussion about what good teaching and learning looks like and how we teach,” Baldwin said.

“It is important to note that we offer four sections of this course because our students are deeply interested in being challenged to think and engage in discourse about difficult and relevant topics.”

Student’s take

Students in the class quickly jumped in to defend the teacher’s motives for putting up the posters.

“I would just like to state that the teacher whose classroom has been posted about is one of the best, most caring, and intellectually engaging teachers in the high school,” said one student.

“She provides her students with a safe and raw environment where we are able to discuss deeper issues and state our opinions. Without such stimulation in the classroom how do you expect us to develop into thoughtful, intelligent young adults?”

Sofia Rodriguez, a RHS senior, is a member of the class. She said the course’s official name is “UCONN 1011 Writing Through Literature” and that it’s taught by Emily Kilbourn.

“It’s probably my favorite class in my schedule,” Rodriguez said.

“Mrs. Kilbourn led us in discussions on the police brutality in America and allowed us to form our own opinions on it,” she added. “So really, I feel like the posters are perfectly suitable in relation to the content we’re discussing.”