A Bucks County school district told teachers not to discuss the Jan. 6 insurrection with students

Pennridge School District teachers were told to stick to "business as usual" if students asked about the Jan. 6 insurrection.

  • Emily Rizzo/WHYY
  • Katie Meyer/WHYY

A Bucks County school district has explicitly instructed teachers not to “wade into” discussions with students about the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington D.C. “due to the current polarization and strong emotions.”

In an email sent Wednesday to social studies teachers and school principals in the Pennridge School District, administrator Keith Veverka, who supervises social studies classes, wrote that, if students ask about the insurrection, teachers should “simply state that the investigation is ongoing and as historians we must wait until there is some distance from the event for us to accurately interpret it.”

The note asked teachers to stick to “business as usual.”

In the email thread, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Kathleen Brewster-Scheid added that the purpose of the email was to remind teachers that “not enough time has passed to be able to design clear lessons on all of the outcomes,” and that Veverka felt that most teachers weren’t prepared to teach on the topic.

The email, which a teacher shared with WHYY, arrived in faculty inboxes a day before the one-year anniversary of violent riots that saw supporters of former president Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol in hopes of stopping a vote to certify the 2020 election.

In the year that followed, federal law enforcement officials have arrested more than 700 people for their part in the calamity. Investigations into the assailants have found a commonality: people who support former President Donald Trump and falsely believe he won the election.

Soon after Pennridge teachers received the message from administration, word began to leak out to parents.

Kevin Foster, who has two children in the district and one in pre-K, said he heard about the email from other engaged parents. He found it “immensely concerning.”

“When we start to meddle with what we want to tell kids or not tell kids in terms of history, I mean, that’s something that you find in authoritarian countries,” he said. “There are those that are so focused on politics instead of the kids that they are going to meddle and put their thumb on the scale as to … what we want to tell the kids in the schools, what happened in the not-so-distant past.”

Asked to clarify the district’s position, Pennridge Superintendent David Bolton said “multiple teachers” had reached out to Veverka ahead of his note, asking for guidance about addressing the insurrection.

“For those seeking guidance, we suggested that, if asked, staff could discuss the role that time plays in forming historical views,” he wrote in an email. “Broadly speaking, however, there is simply no way to predict or address every question that may arise in a classroom. Pennridge teachers remain able to address any topic of current events in a constructive and appropriate manner.”

WHYY is the leading public media station serving the Philadelphia region, including Delaware, South Jersey and Pennsylvania. This story originally appeared on WHYY.org.

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