VII-17: Controversial Issues
North Sanpete School District
Board Policy with Guidelines
|Policy Number: VII-17
Effective Date: 12/16/1982
Subject: Controversial Issues
In Utah as in the nation, the responsibility of schools is clearly defined: to provide experiences which lead to constructive attitudes, skills, and competencies essential to the present and future citizens of the country.
Meaningful programs should deal with matters of social, economic, political, and technical and scientific importance. In the world of contemporary living, controversial issues stemming from these problems are an everyday experience.
The schools have an obligation to promote free investigation of controversial issues and to foster appreciation of the role of constructive controversy as an instrument of progress in a democracy.
Only by guaranteeing individuals freedom to make personal decisions appropriate to one's maturity level can the rights of pupils, teachers, and patrons of the schools be protected. Failure to guarantee such freedom will undermine the competence of the citizenry in carrying out the essential task of decision making in society. Such failures provide rich seedbeds for the insidious doctrines of totalitarian movements. A free society can only be made and kept strong as its people are made aware of its strengths and its weaknesses.
- Since voicing and resolving differences of opinion are essential functions of a democratic society, it is a fundamental responsibility of public education to prepare students to deal effectively with controversial issues.
- Within the limits of law and State Board and local Board of Education policy, all students have the right, under competent guidance and instruction and in an objective atmosphere, to study any questions, issue, or problem which is relevant in their lives, is vital to their welfare and the welfare of society, and is appropriate to their maturity levels.
- Because controversial issues have more than one side, administrators, teachers, parents, and students must realize that it is the right of all persons to express an opinion on issues but should insist that such opinions be identified as such and subject to challenge and debate.
- It should be recognized that in their vital role, teachers need not be neutral, but must be fair. Teachers should be aware of their role in controversial issues as guides and interpreters and help their students gain clear perspectives when controversial issues arise through the processes of sound thinking applied to researching and using valid information that will lead to wise decisions relative to the issues involved.
- When controversial issues arise, teachers must be sensitive to student's ethnic backgrounds and the value systems they have acquired as a result of their lifestyles. Differences of opinion must be controlled so they do not become attacks on individual students or pose a threat to their personal beliefs and ethnic customs.
- Books and other instructional materials should be selected at the local level according to a well-defined and written policy which respects the rights of individuals to choose what they read with those materials which are of a significant, controversial nature having a highly defensible academic prescribed instruction program.
- Procedures for handling complaints in regard to controversial issues should be written and be readily available. Such procedures should be consistent with other acceptable principles for dealing with controversial issues.
- Where strong objections are stated about children being exposed to specific materials, policies should provide for alternate materials, or parents should be given the right to withdraw their children from that portion of the instruction program found by them to be offensive on moral, religious, political, or other acceptable grounds. Signatures should be required if parents take the position they do not want their children to participate in a particular segment of instruction. When such a request is received, the status of standing of the children involved should not be prejudiced by the request. No parent or group of parents should have the right to negotiate the use of reading materials for students other than their own if the material is generally acceptable.
- Committees established to review controversial issues should include a cross section of the public.
- Meetings called to consider controversial issues should carefully follow procedures agreed to by parties concerned and which assure equal consideration of divergent viewpoints.