Teaching About Controversial/Sensitive Issues
NEPN/NSBA Code: IMB
The School Committee encourages the development of learning activities which require reflective and critical thinking in all courses and at all grade levels. These activities should be part of the K-12 Learning Area curriculum.
A. It is the responsibility of the Superintendent and building administrators to ensure that learning activities which involve controversial or sensitive issues be planned within the following guidelines.
1. The study of controversial issues should be defined in terms of the rights of students rather than in terms of the rights of teachers.
2. The study should be emphasized in the high school, when most students are mature enough to study the significant controversial issues facing our citizens.
3. The study should be objective and scholarly with a minimum emphasis on opinion and a maximum emphasis on facts.
B. It is the responsibility of the Superintendent and building administrators to ensure that learning activities which involve controversial or sensitive issues be planned to ensure the following rights to:
1. Study any controversial issue which has political, economic or social significance and concerning which (at the appropriate level) he/she should begin to have an opinion;
2. Have free access to all relevant information;
3. Form and express opinions on controversial issues without jeopardizing relations with the teacher of the school; and
4. Study under competent instruction in an atmosphere free from bias and prejudice.
C. It is the responsibility of the Superintendent and building administrators to ensure that teachers use the following guidelines when planning learning activities which involve controversial or sensitive issues.
1. The teacher, in selecting both the content and the method of instruction, is mindful of the maturity level of the students;
2. The teacher has assured him/herself that the controversial subject to be discussed belongs within the framework of the curriculum to be covered, that the subject is significant as well as meaningful for the students, and that through the discussion, students will have some opportunity to grow;
3. The teacher handles the classroom presentation in ways which will ensure a wide range of information and interpretation for the students’ consideration and strives to present a balance among many points of view;
4. The teacher does not use the classroom as a personal forum. He/she does not employ the techniques of the demagogue or the propagandist for attention, for control or simply for color. The teacher has the right to identify and express his/her own point of view in the classroom as long as he/she indicates clearly that it is his/her own;
5. The teacher emphasizes keeping an open mind, basing one’s judgment on known facts, looking closely at facts to evaluate them in terms of the subject under discussion, and being ready to change one’s opinion should new facts come into light; and;
6. The emphasis always is on the method of forming an opinion as much as on the opinion formed.
Adopted: January 14, 1999
Revised: July 12, 2018