Judge blocks Llano ISD teachers from using CSCOPE lessons; hearing set

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

LLANO — The Llano Independent School District has stepped into the middle of a battle brewing over CSCOPE lesson materials, criticized by conservatives as “anti-American” and “hidden away from public scrutiny.”

On Aug. 9, a state district judge granted Llano attorney Tim Cowart a temporary injunction against use of materials associated with CSCOPE in Llano ISD classes, pending an upcoming hearing.

Citing Texas Education Code, Section 31.022, the lawsuit filed by Cowart on behalf of William R. Hussey, Leticia McCasland, Trevor Dupuy, Thomas E. Allan and Julie J. Schmidt seeks a ruling to prohibit the use of CSCOPE curriculum resources in Llano classrooms.

The upcoming hearing on the temporary injunction is 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Burnet County Courthouse Annex, 1701 Texas 29 East in Burnet.

“CSCOPE has some controversial materials in its instruction plans. My clients have concerns that there tends to be a lot of collectivist ideology in CSCOPE,” Cowart said. “As parents, grandparents, as taxpayers, we need to make sure that the lesson plans and the materials (the students are) learning is appropriate for them and not hidden away from public scrutiny.”

Collectivism emphasizes the will of the collective rather than the individual.

CSCOPE, a free online education system, was developed by Texas Education Service Centers under the umbrella of the Texas Education Agency.

“I’ve seen and heard about certain examples, like the folks with the Boston Tea Party were a bunch of terrorists,” Cowart said.

He referenced an optional CSCOPE lesson plan on terrorism, cited in an outdated world history unit, which he said compared the Boston Tea Party to “an act of terrorism.”

As a result of public outcry, state legislators passed Senate Bill 1406 in June, making CSCOPE subject to State Board of Education scrutiny and consequently resulting in the dissolution of the nonprofit organization that provided a funding mechanism for CSCOPE.

In Texas, the state board handles pre-approval of textbooks to be offered to local public school districts. Districts typically handle curriculum and materials associated with those texts.

However, the existing lessons remain available, and some districts, including Llano ISD, give educators the option of using available CSCOPE materials.

“The General Counsel for the Texas Education Agency has stated that ‘the CSCOPE lessons are in the public domain in the sense that Shakespeare is in the public domain and anyone is allowed to use it,” said Llano ISD Superintendent Casey Callahan in a statement from the district. “Llano ISD has not mandated the use by its teachers, nor has it forbidden the use of CSCOPE resources.”

Cowart argues all CSCOPE materials past and present are subject to SB 1406.

“My position as a lawyer is does this statute fit the situation in Llano? From my point of view, it does fit,” he said. “The CSCOPE lesson plans were developed by educational service centers; as such, they are subject to that standard and must be approved by the State Board of Education.”

On Aug. 12 in Austin, Cowart testified at a hearing to talk about the court order and lawsuit against Llano ISD.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, were among legislators at the hearing.

“We elect our school board members, but we ought to do more than just vote,” Cowart said in an interview after the hearing. “We need to stand up and have a voice in how our children are being taught.”

connie@thepicayune.com