6:80 - Teaching About Controversial Issues

District 39 prepares students to meet and face controversial life issues with desirable attitudes and the skills needed to respond thoughtfully and respectfully to differing worldviews. As a means of accomplishing these goals, the District selects some of those controversial topics for study to provide age-appropriate opportunities for student engagement in a safe space. This allows students to practice developing the critical thinking and interpersonal skills necessary to deal with difficult issues.

  1. Definition

    Controversial issues are defined as issues where conflicting views are held by political groups or factions, by management and labor, by urban and rural communities and by other large segments of our society. Controversial issues are important proposals or policies about which our citizens hold different points of view. Controversial issues arise from the conflicts in closely held interests, beliefs or affiliations of large groups of our citizens.

  2. Controversial Issues in the Curriculum

    The curriculum may include the study of important unsolved problems (political, economic, or social) which involve controversial issues. These are appropriately studied based upon the maturity of the pupils and the judgment of the teacher.

    Free discussion of controversial issues is the heart of the democratic process. Freedom of speech and free access to information are among our most cherished traditions. As pupils become mature enough to study the significant controversial issues facing our citizens, it is the responsibility of the schools to encourage dispassionate, unprejudiced and objective, fact based studies of those issues in an atmosphere free from bias and prejudice. It is the right of pupils to have free access to all relevant and appropriate material and to form and express their own opinions on controversial issues without jeopardizing their positions with teachers or schools.

The fundamental objectives of studying controversial issues are:

  1. To improve each student's ability to discriminate between fact and opinion;
  2. To develop critical thinking skills;
  3. To learn how to identify propaganda techniques;
  4. To develop a willingness to hear and understand other people’s views, to reflect upon them; and
  5. To develop an awareness of the rights of others to their own opinions.

The Superintendent shall ensure that all school-sponsored presentations and discussions of controversial or sensitive topics in the instructional program, including those made by guest speakers, are:

  • Age-appropriate;
  • Conducted with proper decorum and in consideration of the age of the audience;
  • Consistent with the curriculum and serve an educational purpose;
  • Informative and present a balanced view;
  • Respectful of the rights and opinions of everyone;
  • In keeping with District 39’s Statement of Inclusion; in that no student or group may be marginalized or singled out for their views;
  • Prohibitive of personal criticisms, or attacks;
  • Not tolerant of profanity or slander;
  • Prohibitive of any disruptive conduct which may be subject to disciplinary action.

The District specifically reserves its right to stop any school-sponsored activity that it determines violates this policy, is harmful to the District or the students, or violates state or federal law.

Adopted: November 10, 1997
Revised: December 18, 2017

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