The Student News Site of West Albany High School

WHIRLWIND

The Student News Site of West Albany High School

WHIRLWIND

The Student News Site of West Albany High School

WHIRLWIND

The Before and After

Previous Policy

In previous editions of the controversial issues policy, the policy supported teachers bringing controversial issues into the classroom. The district encourages unbiased, impartial, and scientific study of controversial topics. 

     A controversial issue could be defined as an issue or topic currently being debated in which honest disagreement exists. These issues arise most frequently when different interpretations are provided for a particular set of circumstances. 

 

Revision Policy

The revised policy now puts decisions in the hands of the teachers.

     Teachers must determine whether or not the lesson they wish to teach is controversial. If the topic is in the process of debate, the teacher must schedule a meeting with the principal and discuss a generalized plan for the lesson/unit.

     Once the plan is set, The teachers must reach out to parents at least 7+ days before the lesson. Teachers need to create an alternative assignment for the students who may opt out of the class. Teachers need to plan for the students who opt out to be supervised outside of the classroom. 

 

 

Public Hearing

With public comment being allowed at the district office on Sept. 25, many community members could address their concerns on the revised controversial policy. 

     There was a signup sheet located outside of the designated meeting room. Individuals had to sign up

prior to the conversation to ensure they would get a chance to speak.

     Board members would call someone’s name, and then who would speak directly after them. Each member would get three minutes to say their thoughts. They would have to state their name and relationship to the district. Many members worried about the definition of controversial and how the new policy would only add more stress to the teachers. 

     As the meeting ended, there was still a chunk of time left in the session. The board then opened the discussion to anyone in the room, even if they hadn’t signed up initially. 

    

A few members spoke again while we had a few new speakers. At the end of the meeting, a student spoke out about how the draft affects not only the teachers and staff but the students.

     After the meeting adjourned, board members complimented the community for sharing their thoughts on how the comments added new perspectives and how the words would affect the next policy draft.

Opinion From The Teachers

“I feel that there is some leeway in the subjectiveness of what a controversial topic is and what a timely warning is,” Halverson said. With the lack of definition in the policy, there is no clear line of what is controversial, “What’s controversial to you might not be controversial to me.”  

 

“It is unnecessarily overburdening for teachers and also overly subjective,” Howell said. With the new policy, teachers would have to know what they will be teaching in class and then send out notifications on what will be conducted in their lesson. “I understand that some of the underlying foundations for [the policy] I believe that parents should be involved.” 

 

“I think when we try to avoid controversial issues, it allows them to stay controversial in a sense,” said Marty Johnston. As a history teacher, Johnston teaches many subjects that can be controversial. “When I present historical events and patterns throughout history, I don’t present them from my perspective.e I try to present them the way they actually occurred, and to look at how these patterns are still present in American society today.”  

 

“I understand the desire for the board to have a controversial issues policy,” Beiser said. Beiser believes that it is essential that the policy is in place because of certain factors, such as religious and political views.” 

Community Members

Controversial Curriculum

The draft controversial issues policy: The history, the reception, and the background
Community+member+adds+comment+during+the+public+hearing
Kayla Stefan
Community member adds comment during the public hearing

     On Sept. 25, the district office opened a work session to allow the community to comment publicly on the revisions made to the controversial issues policy. Many parents, community members, and staff attended the meeting with varying concerns. 

     Before stating any problems from the community, each speaker had to say their name and relationship to the district. 

     Guidelines were provided for those who chose to speak to stay on track during the conversation. The concerns the speakers wanted to address had to be concerned with the definition of controversial, the addition of parent notification, parent opt-out forms, and any other questions about the draft policy. 

     Many staff and community members spoke at the meeting, and those who did agreed that this would be more work for teachers with parent notification in the policy. “I worry about the extra work that it will add for the teachers to include the notification,” Nick Anderson said. 

     The draft policy puts an immense amount of work on the teachers, and staff member Jodi Howell says, “The majority of parents also feel that it is unnecessarily overburdening for teachers and also very subjective.” 

     However, that wasn’t the only concern that occurred during the meeting. Staff member Annelie Haberman mentioned that many topics discussed in the class are state standards. “Last year, I was told that when I was teaching a state standard, I was told that it was a controversial issue.” 

     In the classroom, each subject has a set of topics that need to be taught, which is what the state standards are. However, what happens when an issue is considered controversial but has to be taught in the classroom? 

     During a conversation with Superintendent Andy Gardner, he discussed that if any topic came up with student curiosity, the teacher could allow the conversation as long as they remained unbiased throughout the discussion. Any nonsuperficial exchanges that could be deemed controversial will require a parent notification before any class discussion.

     Teachers will have to talk with the principal about why the topic should be discussed in class. Once the lesson is approved, the teacher has to send out a form of notification, most likely by email, to all parents a week in advance. Teachers will also have to create an alternative assignment for the students who may opt out of the lesson. 

    There are currently no guidelines determining precisely what defines a controversial issue, how often a student can opt out, or how teachers should approach discussions that may be considered controversial. 

     The next draft of the policy should include a better definition of what controversial is and will be sure to include the word “respectful” and not once use the word “indoctrination.” 

     Adding the word “respectful” will clarify the intentions of the policy while also removing the confusion from the community about what the board wants.

     The word indoctrination has been afloat by community members because it may affect the students in the classroom. In the policy, to remove worry from parents and other community members, the board will avoid using the word indoctrination in the next iteration of the controversial issues policy. 

     The next revision will be discussed over the next few board meetings. Once the next iteration is complete, the district will send out email notifications to parents and then provide training for staff on the new procedures within the policy. 

 

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About the Contributors
Kayla Stefan, News Editor
Kayla Stefan is in her second year on staff and is currently holding the role of News Editor. Stefan has covered special, news, and entertainment. She enjoys designing and having to cut the word count of her stories. Stefan hopes to improve her design skills, and communication skills in the following years.
Gigi Roldan, Editor In Chief
so true!!!!
Conversation with Andy Gardner

Superintendent Andy Gardner provides insight into popular questions among the community about the controversial issues of policy. 

     Gardner disclosed that the policy’s purpose and goal was to engage with the community more.  

     “It falls within a goal, a broader goal, which is one of my three [main] goals of engaging the community,” he said. Gardner wants to include parents and community members in this revised policy. 

     Within the next revised draft of the controversial issues policy, Gardner wishes to include responses from the staff, parents, and community members: “We are going to actively incorporate the comments made [at the meeting].” 

     Gardner will indeed include ” respectful ” in the policy to create a well-understood draft with less confusion. While also making sure that “indoctrination” isn’t mentioned. 

     A recurring question among teachers is why the provided syllabus isn’t enough notification for parents. According to Gardner, the syllabus isn’t enough because high school is the only level where a syllabus is given to parents and students. 

     “I believe the high school is the only place where a syllabus [is] sent out to kids,” said Gardner. However, this policy affects the entire district, which includes the high schools.  

     If a controversial topic occurs in classrooms, teachers are expected to notify parents seven days before the matter is discussed. Gardner believes sending it out by email would be the most effective way. “We ask that parents read their email at least once a week.” 

      When teachers send the notice before the topic, parents have enough time to read the email before the class discussion. However, suppose a parent accuses the teacher of not sending a notification. In that case, the teacher can still proceed with the lesson because it has already been approved, and a notice has been sent.

     Controversial topics are still encouraged in classrooms. However, the new policy is allowing parents to have more involvement in what their kids learn within the school. 

 

 

Superintendent Andy Gardner
Public Comments
  •  “I want to congratulate the community, [and] express my appreciation for the dialog that occurred [during the meeting].” -Superintendent Andy Gardner
  • “In our education system, there will be discipline for pushing their agenda on their students on a controversial issue” -Peter Epp 
  • “The school has to more or less babysit a child while everyone else is getting an education” -Nick Anderson 
  • “There are already standards set in place”  -Nick Anderson 
  • “What are the concrete ways that you’re going to keep this policy from being used as a weapon?” -Suzanne Phillips 
  • “Does this policy permeate to the rest of the school’s policies as the guiding philosophy?” -Garrett Fletcher 
  • “There are a lot of things that could be controversial” -Garrett Fletcher 
  • “Our teachers are really who we trust” – Sarah Bates 
  • “I hate to have some of the constraints or preclude those spontaneous discussions” -Sarah Bates 
  • “Students are involved in social scientific discovery” -Allison Dean 
  • “Our teachers are exhausted” -Peter Epp 
  • “I have full authority over my child” -Peter Barclay
  • “I am so glad to see some parts of the policy regarding the free exchange of ideas [are] preserved” – Jennifer Thibert
  • “Students know they are fully entitled to have their own values [and] opinions.”-Jennifer Thibert
  • “As a teacher, I’m required by Oregon law to teach about controversial topics”-Jennifer Thibert
  • “I don’t think I need that experience to name a few things that should be common knowledge” -Peter Epp 
  • “We are here tonight to listen to a policy that is being amended tonight” – Superintendent Andy Gardner
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