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New panel to assess teaching techniques

For the last year and a half, Mark Burnette has taken a special interest in whatever his children bring home from school; he believes the Citrus County public schools are teaching some questionable lessons.

In one case, his child, who is in a class for gifted children, was given an assignment that asked students to write about being transformed from one species into another.

In another case, children at the Lecanto Middle School participated in a play that he said was full of possessions, spirits and the occult.

Burnette told the school district's policy committee Wednesday that he doesn't think a policy to outlaw questionable teaching techniques from the schools will have any real effect.

"There won't be any guidelines for enforcing this in the classroom," he said, noting that he felt school system officials have been lying all along about what is and isn't taught.

After listening to Burnette's comments and the continuing questions raised by the Concerned Parents of Citrus County, the committee decided to form a subcommittee to revise a proposed policy to ban some teaching techniques.

As written, the proposed policy will ban hypnosis, meditation, yoga, guided imagery and relaxation techniques. It has earned poor marks from educators who were asked their opinions.

Administrators, teachers, counselors and others in the system reviewing the original proposal called it vague and ambiguous and worried that it would remove not only the questionable techniques, but also usable classroom tools and professional freedom.

On Wednesday, Karen Compostella with the Concerned Parents said the group needed more time to find wording that would be more acceptable. "It's a lot to take in, actually," she said. "I think that we need to dig around a little more."

Holly Roberts, the other Concerned Parents member who has been working on the policy, said she was disheartened by all the negative comments from committee members at the last meeting.

"I don't see any other way to reword it," she said. "I find it hard to believe with all the input from the schools and not one person found anything good about the policy."

Roberts asked the committee members if they understood the concerns voiced by the group about the techniques.

Committee members said they were trying to find the common ground so that a policy could be created. "We all have different interpretations of things," said committee member David Cook.

Roberts said she was still concerned that another committee would simply waste everyone's time.

"I just don't want it watered down to the point that it doesn't mean anything," she said.

Burnette added his concerns that "there's been a lot of deception coming forth and there's been a lot of doublespeak."

He also told the committee that "almighty God is going to call every single person who has been promoting this curriculum to be accountable" for their actions.

"I tend to agree with Mark," Roberts said. "This is a philosophy. We all have our basic philosophy and it's going to be hard to see eye to eye on them."

But Compostella and school administrator Bonnie Skrove said they hoped that the new committee could find a more acceptable policy.

"There is a (common) ground here," Skrove said. "It's not easy to figure out where it is or how it will look, but I think that the potential exists."

Members suggested that the new subcommittee include Concerned Parents members, other parents who have voiced an interest, school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and social workers.