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Hamburg parent outraged by showing of ‘Psycho’ murder scene to middle schoolers

The bloody knife comes down again and again, stabbing a helpless Janet Leigh during the famous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

It’s scary even to hardened horror movie aficionados, but imagine the effect on a classroom of special-education students in Hamburg Middle School.

Parent Terry Dunford found out when his 13-year-old daughter started telling him about the video clip she saw in school that showed a nude woman in a shower and blood on the floor.

“It appalls me that a professional would make that kind of decision, to show inappropriate material to my child or any child,” he told the School Board on Wednesday night. “I am disgusted by this action.”

Dunford said that seven years ago he and his wife adopted three children from Poland who had been orphaned.

“When we did that, we brought them to a place of safety and security. A week ago, that safety and security was shattered. It’s heartbreaking for me, knowing what my family’s past was, to have them be subjected to material that is not appropriate for minors,” he said.

Dunford said the special-education teacher added the “Psycho” clip to a video that the district had purchased several years ago from Scholastic, which provides educational materials to school districts. The lesson was on how sights and sounds can generate fear. It featured a scene from “The Shining,” where Jack Nicholson jams an ax through a door, terrorizing his wife, and one from “Child’s Play,” featuring Chuckie, a character who later in the movie goes on to commit murder and mayhem.

“This is not appropriate for minor children. R-rated movies are R-rated for a reason,” Dunford said. “Have we become so desensitized to crime and violence that we think it’s OK to show R-rated material to a kid? Is that what we’ve come to in America?”

He faults Scholastic and the teacher who added the “Psycho” scene to the lesson. Dunford said he asked to speak at Wednesday’s special board meeting to let other parents know they should follow up on what is going on in the classroom. He said some of the children in his daughter’s class have problems communicating and may not have been able to tell their parents.

“God knows what they may have been thinking in the last week,” he said.

Dunford met with the principal and the superintendent, and said the district has been very responsive.

“They’ve listened a great deal, they’ve apologized verbally and in writing, and we thank them for that,” he said.

His daughter has been moved to another class, he said after the meeting, adding that there should be consequences for the teacher.

He asked that the district send a letter to other parents in the class and another to Scholastic asking why it would choose inappropriate material for children and create a standing committee to look at curriculum and materials going into the classroom.

Board members did not comment at the meeting, but said the issue is being addressed by the superintendent, who was not at Wednesday’s meeting.