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Petaluma City Schools |  BP  6144  Instruction

Controversial Issues   

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Definition: Controversial issues are matters of present and past import upon which there is no agreement approaching unanimity among the citizens of the community, of the nation, or among the nations of the world.

The freedom to teach and the freedom to learn in an environment of open inquiry shall be valued and supported in the district. The consideration of controversial issues shall be encouraged as a part of the educational process. It is recognized that the role of the teacher is central in this process if the principles of inquiry are to be put into practice.

The Board of Education believes that students should have opportunities to discuss controversial issues which have political, social or economic significance and which the students are mature enough to investigate and address. The study of a controversial issue should help students learn how to gather and organize pertinent facts, discriminate between fact and fiction, draw intelligent conclusions and respect the opinions of others.

In the study of controversial issues, the student has the following rights:

1. The right to study any controversial issue which has political, economic, or social significance according to his/her individual level.

2. The right, under guidance, to have free access to all relevant information.

3. The right to study under competent instruction in an atmosphere free from bias and prejudice.

4. The right to form and express his/her own opinions on controversial issues without thereby jeopardizing relations with the teacher or the school.

The Board expects teachers to exercise caution and discretion when deciding whether or not a particular issue is suitable for study or discussion in any particular class.

The Board also expects teachers to ensure that all sides of a controversial issue are impartially presented, with adequate and appropriate factual information. Without promoting any partisan point of view, the teacher should help students separate fact from opinion and warn them against drawing conclusions from insufficient data. The teacher shall not suppress any student's view on the issue as long as its expression is not malicious or abusive toward others.

Teachers sponsoring guest speakers shall either ask them not to use their position or influence on students to forward their own religious, political, economic or social views or shall take active steps to neutralize whatever bias has been presented.

(cf. 1312.1 - Complaints Concerning District Employees)

(cf. 1312.2 - Complaints Concerning Instructional Materials)

(cf. 5145.2 - Freedom of Speech/Expression: Publications Code)

Legal Reference:


51510 Prohibited study or supplemental materials

51511 Religious matters properly included in courses of study

51530 Prohibition and definition re advocating or teaching communism with intent to indoctrinate

51933 Sex education courses

60040 Portrayal of cultural and racial diversity

60044 Prohibited instructional materials

60045 Required to be accurate, objective, current, and suited to needs and comprehension at respective grade levels


adopted: June 25, 2002 Petaluma, California