School: Movie caused stir, but served educational purpose

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An investigation found nothing wrong with showing the movie "The Breakfast Club" in a Two Harbors High School psychology class.

A parent who found the movie inappropriate prompted the investigation after she complained at the Lake Superior School District Board of Education meeting in December.

THHS Principal Jay Belcastro said he sat down with the psychology class teacher, George Olson, and discussed the decision to show the movie and its learning outcomes. Belcastro said it was clear the movie was shown for an educational purpose and that the parental permission process was followed correctly.

"The movie was really applicable to the lessons that he was teaching in this psychology class," Belcastro said.

Laura Smith spoke out at a Lake Superior School District Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Dec. 12, against the showing of the 1985 comedy-drama after her 11th-grade daughter brought home a permission slip to watch it.

"When I found out this information, I was disappointed and saddened that the high school would allow a movie of this rating and content to be shown during the school day," she said at the time.

Smith objected to profanity, sexual references and drug use in the film and did not allow her daughter to watch it in class.

Belcastro pointed out that while the movie is rated R, Common Sense Media — a website that offers aged-based ratings and reviews — listed the movie as suitable for viewers age 15 and older. The class was comprised of high school juniors and seniors, who are usually 16 to 18 years old.

Belcastro said the movie is shown in many psychology classrooms, not just at THHS.

"It sounds like it is a fairly commonly used depiction of challenges students face and widely used in a lot of psych classes," Belcastro said.

The parental permission process was followed correctly as well, Belcastro said. Parents were notified via permission slip and the slip explained the specific movie and why it was shown as a learning resource in the class. It also explained that there was an alternative assignment the student could watch if they were not allowed to watch the film.

The only recommendation or change Belcastro said he suggested in those meetings was to mute scenes with profanity.
"Maybe when it gets to the points where the language gets a little bit too raw, a simple muting of that would be a way to get around it without losing the value of movie as a whole," Belcastro said.

Many people questioned why the movie was being shown in class at all after the original story ran in the Lake County News-Chronicle on Dec. 14.

Belcastro affirmed the movie served an educational purpose and that the school would not support the screening of a movie if it was shown for no reason.

"It sounded like there were thoughtful, lengthy conversations to follow, and even through the movie itself," Belcastro said.