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Teaching About Controversial Issues: IMB

  • Instruction: I
Teaching About Controversial Issues: IMB

27J Schools strives to create the Thinking Classroom, an inclusive learning environment where students are provided with opportunities to think critically about topics, subjects, or questions related to learning goals. Classrooms where multiple perspectives are encouraged and included; where students are supported in developing their own opinions and rational based on facts; and where every student feels safe, valued, and respected. Students have a role in maintaining the inclusive learning environment by participating in the Thinking Classroom and respecting and treating their peers with dignity.

Accordingly, the purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for teaching and learning through controversial issues while balancing 27J Schools’ goals in creating the Thinking Classroom and an inclusive learning environment.


“Controversial issues” are defined as those topics, subjects, or questions about which there are significant differences of opinion and discussions of which generally create strong feelings among people. Although there may be disagreement over what the facts are and what they mean, subjects usually become controversial issues because of differences in interpretation or the values people use in applying the facts.

“Controversial materials” are defined as learning resources which are not part of the district's approved learning resources and which are subject to disagreement as to appropriateness because they refer or relate to a controversial issue or present material in a manner which is itself controversial. Examples of such materials include, but are not limited to, those that depict explicit sexual conduct, graphic violence, profanity, drug use, or other behaviors that are generally not tolerated or encouraged for minor students, or materials that are likely to create divisions in the community based on members’ values, beliefs, and identities.

  • Films and videos rated PG, PG-13 or R shall be considered controversial in accordance with this policy.
    • X rated and NC-17 rated films and videos shall not be used in district schools.
    • PG, PG-13 and R rated films and videos shall be considered controversial at the elementary school level.
    • PG-13 and R rated films and videos shall be considered controversial at the middle school level.
    • R rated films and videos shall be considered controversial at the high school level.

Teaching and learning through controversial issues

Teachers may use controversial learning materials and discuss controversial issues if they contribute to the attainment of course objectives directly related to the 27J Curricular Frameworks in alignment with the Colorado Academic Standards. While teachers may share their individual beliefs, these beliefs must be tempered and presented as an opinion not as a matter of statement or fact. Teachers shall be assured of support from the appropriate supervisor and the Superintendent when their actions are in accordance with this policy and the accompanying regulation, Policy IMB-R, outlining the approval process.

The factors of timeliness, ethics, maturity, needs of the students, and the educational program shall be considered. This policy does not prevent staff from teaching about the many religious, ethnic, cultural, and diverse population groups and their contributions to our world heritage consistent with state academic standards and outcomes. The inclusion of controversial issues or materials as part of instruction comes with the professional responsibilities of being neutral and inclusive by intentionally planning:

  • The educational purpose to serve student achievement of a learning goal aligned with the 27J Curricular Frameworks and Colorado Academic Standards rather than reaching conclusions about the validity of a specific point of view.
  • Measures of student learning in alignment with the learning goal and not specific to the validity of a specific point of view.
  • The use of resources that include facts, concepts, multiple perspectives, and all aspects as related to the controversial issues to support student practice of critical thinking.
  • A learning environment where students are safe to identify, express, and defend their point of view while also learning to respect the rights of their peers to have, express, and defend their point of view within an environment of dignity and respect for one another.
    • Individual identities and perspectives are included and respected.
    • Posted materials promote and support student learning and do not represent or promote individual beliefs or ideals.

If approved and upon principal’s review, teachers shall send a written communication to parents/guardians which provides information on the controversial issue and/or learning materials and offers the opportunity to request their student not participate When controversial issues or controversial materials are used as part of the instructional program, alternative learning activities shall be provided when feasible at the request of a student or the student’s parents/guardians.

Unplanned controversial issues 27J Schools recognizes that controversial topics may enter the school and/or classroom through student-initiated, impromptu, or incidental discussions outside of planned learning activities. In instances where teachers, staff, or administrators are aware, they will re-direct discussions and inform the principal who will communicate with parents within 1 school day of being made aware of the situation.