PG-13 movie policy changes


I am writing in response to Mr. Buckley's letter in the Oct. 12 Lake Oswego Review. As a parent, I am also deeply concerned about the movies being shown at Lake Oswego Junior High School. I spoke with a counselor, the vice- principal and the principal at the school; each of them gave a different answer as to district policy. The principal, Ms. Gerson, authoritatively quoted district policy but reacted defensively to my questions regarding whether or not PG-13 movies were appropriate in a junior high school setting, why parent's permission is not required, and whether parental input is welcome.

Shortly after speaking with her, I attended a parent club meeting in order to ask the parents present if they knew about the movies; of the seven parents there not one of them was aware of the practice. Ms. Gerson, also in attendance, cut the debate short; she then turned on me and said, 'I don't believe in burning books or banning movies.' I was outraged by the inference. My idea was to simply request parental input and I was taken aback that in a school district that thrives due to parental volunteerism, I was asked to butt out.

Here is a direct quote from the Motion Picture Association of America or MPAA (the movie rating people): 'The basic mission of the rating system is a simple one: to offer to parents some advance information about movies so that parents can decide what movies they want their children to see or not to see.'

Parents are the ones to decide, not the school or their peers.

Here are some of the movie titles this teacher showed last year:

'Hitch,' 'Mean Girls,' 'Tommy Boy,' 'Bruce Almighty,' 'Bringing Down the House,' 'Guess Who,' 'Dodgeball.' Each of these movies is rated PG-13. However, this group of kids also chose the following movies: 'Sharktale,' 'The Incredibles,' 'Hidalgo,' 'Spongebob Squarepants,' 'Napolean Dynamite' and 'Shrek,' all either rated PG or G.

School should be fun as well as educational. It is clear to me that, when considering the wide array of movie titles the junior high kids are choosing to view; from 'Spongebob' to 'Dodgeball,' they are truly between two worlds. They are adolescents that still need parental guidance.

According to the MPAA, 'a PG-13 film is one which, in the view of the Rating Board, leaps beyond the boundaries of the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, or other contents, but does not quite fit within the restricted R category.'

Ms. Gerson reflects that 'some students at this age have trouble in the large arena of the cafeteria, and like the more comfortable classroom feeling.' While I'm sure her heart goes out to these students, she is simultaneously subverting the parent-child-school relationship by allowing this teacher to manipulate the system with a loophole in the district policy. This teacher does not have to have parental permission to show PG-13 movies in his classroom because it is an option. Ms. Gerson says, 'Students and parents can exclude themselves from this optional activity.' I say why not make this optional activity in 'the comfortable classroom setting' an activity that does not threaten to undermine the relationship between parents and their children, and parents and their children's school.

Corinne Mitchell is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Editor's note: Lake Oswego Junior High School Principal Ann Gerson responds: 'School district guidelines for showing movies/videos to students state that movies with a PG-13 rating may be used in middle schools with parent notification and the opportunity for a parent to withdraw the student from participation. On those infrequent occasions when movies or portions of movies are used as enhancements for instruction, the videos shown should be deeply connected to instructional objectives and curriculum, and the teacher has the responsibility to articulate this connection. In this particular circumstance, G, PG, and PG-13 movies that students bring from home have been watched for entertainment during the lunch period. The teacher who volunteered his time to make his classroom available to these students did not seek to remove decision-making authority from parents, and provided parents with notification. Given the broad range of possible content covered by the PG-13 rating, these movies will no longer be shown for entertainment purposes at school. Guidelines governing the use of PG-13 movies for enhancing instruction remain in place.'