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Cason Family Sends Letter To School District Over Controversial Poem Assignment

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) - Skylar Cason is typical a 16-year old attending classes at Steamboat Springs High School, but material taught during one of her classes is landing the student in the middle of a potential federal legal battle with the Steamboat Springs School District Re-2.

Cason chose an elective class, "Music Literature," because she "loves literature and music." It seemed like a perfect fit until a partial poem was assigned earlier this year.

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A family wants change fro the Steamboat Springs School District Re-2. (credit: CBS)

The teacher assigned the class discussion around the controversial poem, "Howl" by Allen Ginsburg.

Cason claims the teacher read aloud vulgar and lewd words and required students to meditate on the lyrics of a song about sexting.

The school maintains no policies were violated, and they stand with the teachers decision to bring the poem into the class.

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(credit: CBS)

"I was completely taken aback by the material and the content in the material, what she was required to write," Skylar's father Brett Cason told CBS4 Monday.

Brett contacted the school with concerns he had over his daughter being asked to recite and say vulgar words as part of the class assignment, that are in the poem. It's something he says parents were not alerted to beforehand.

"I would've been fine with it if I was given an opportunity to opt out or give her an alternate assignment. That was never offered to us or her," Brett said.

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(credit: CBS)

After he went to the school with his concerns, officials responded by forming a committee comprised of community members, students and teachers to look at the concerns, according to the district. They found the material to be educational in nature and covered under the districts policies.

The Cason family turned to First Liberty Institute - a law firm specializing in religious liberty claims - and sent a letter Monday demanding the school district make major changes moving forward. Those demands include a written apology to parents and more notice for parents about future assignments like this one.

They also want staff at the school to go through more training.

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Brett and Skylar Cason (credit: CBS)

"This is just too sexually explicit, it's vulgar, it's obscene it's almost pornographic. It does not belong in a high school setting," Brett said.

The district has until next month to respond to the Cason's letter from their legal counsel. If their demands are not met the family intends to file a federal lawsuit against the school district.

Skylar remains in the class, but says it is difficult and "awkward" in the wake of what happened and what is going on now.

According to the letter obtained Monday by CBS4, the family's attorney Jeremy Dys, Special Counsel for Litigation and Communications requested the district do the following actions:

  1. (Teacher) shall issue a written apology to all of the parents/guardians of his students for failing to notify parents/guardians about the teaching of controversial materials (as identified herein) and the provision of an alternative assignment.
  2. All SSSD administrators, teachers, and staff must receive two (2) hours of continuing education concerning Policy I-9E and the use of controversial materials at SSSD schools.
  3. All SSSD administrators, teachers, and staff must receive two (2) hours of sensitivity training concerning parental rights in public education.
  4. All SSSD administrators, teachers, and staff must receive two (2) hours of sensitivity training concerning the protection of student religious liberty and the rights of conscience.
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