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IMB - Teaching About Controversial Issues

IMB - Teaching About Controversial Issues

Policy Statement 

Students are exposed to a wide range of issues, information, ideas and values at school, at home and in the community.  Particular issues may be controversial because of differing political, religious, moral, ethical or cultural beliefs. In the context of the educational program and approved curricula, the Board supports discussion of controversial issues in an atmosphere that promotes positive and inclusive student learning and teaches respect for the beliefs of others.

To promote appropriate and fair consideration of controversial issues in the instructional setting, the Board expects the following principles to be followed by educators. 

1. Discussion of controversial issues shall be appropriate to the age, grade and maturity of the students involved.

2. Discussion of a controversial issue may take place as part of the approved curriculum and for educational purposes.  The educator must be knowledgeable about the issue and serve as a facilitator to ensure that points of view are presented in a civil manner. In the capacity as facilitator, it is the educator’s responsibility to identify diverse points of view on an issue, and to make certain that differing opinions and perspectives are treated with respect.

3. Students shall be given the opportunity to understand different/opposing sides of an issue and to use classroom discussion to formulate their own views. Students shall also be provided with appropriate instructional materials and opportunities to research and study the issue.

4. Educators shall not use the classroom as a forum to advance their personal views or proselytize, but are not prohibited from expressing their own views for legitimate pedagogical purposes. Educators should be mindful that the Board’s priority is to create a positive, respectful and inclusive student learning environment. The MSAD 35 Board of Directors places priority on the following student learning parameters when engaging in the curriculum appropriate study of controversial issues:

1. The ability for students to 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. The ability for students to have free access to all relevant information;

3. The ability for students to form and express opinions on controversial issues without thereby jeopardizing relations with the teacher or the school; and

4. The ability for students to study under competent instruction in an atmosphere free from bias and prejudice.

5. Outside speakers on controversial issues must be approved in advance by the building administrator. When outside speakers are used, reasonable efforts should be made to expose students to speakers on more than one side of the issue. If this is not feasible, educators are responsible for providing appropriate information regarding differing points of view on the issue.

 6. Students or their parents/legal guardians who object to particular topics based on their particular, sincerely-held religious, moral or philosophical beliefs may request an accommodation in accordance with Board Policy IMBB.



Cross References: IMBB – Accommodation of Sincere Beliefs in Required Instruction

ILD – Educational Research:  Student Submission To Surveys, Analyses or Evaluation 

Policy Adopted: May 17, 1995

Policy Revised: April 5, 2006, September 01, 2021