District Policy 2240: Enforcement needed

America has found itself in a delicate situation. The political divide has surpassed politics and government, affecting every facet of the American experience. In a world of political separation, education has come into the limelight. As the country argues over the politicized issues of today, students are in classrooms attempting to navigate it all.

The classroom must be a place for open forum discussions allowing all students to have their voice heard without the pressure of the teacher’s opinion. WHS must do a better job of holding teachers accountable for disregarding the BOE policy on addressing controversial topics, including political subjects.

According to BOE District Policy 2240, “In the discussion of any issue, a teacher may express a personal opinion, provided the expression is characterized as personal opinion, does not attempt to persuade students to the teacher’s point of view, and takes into consideration the level of maturity of the students.”

A key piece of this policy is that teachers are not to attempt to persuade students to agree with their point of view. Even with this policy in place, some teachers at WHS continue to preach their political views on controversial issues, creating the opportunity for a student to be implicitly pressured to agree with those views. Students may worry that they are at risk for worse grades or poor treatment, pushing them further to agree with the teacher’s stance.

Personally, I have encountered situations where the teacher taught material with a clear political lean. In classes such as financial literacy or math, for example, where the curriculum is not contentious, just fact-based, there is no reason for a teacher to be expressing a political opinion to students. When opinion sits beside fact, it may be hard for students to decipher between the two.

High school students are at the age where they are developing their own stances on important issues. Schools are meant to foster a positive learning environment while teaching kids how to form their own thoughts and opinions for the real world. If a teacher, one that a student may look up to, expresses their own opinion, it can stunt the intellectual development of the student’s own ideas.

While the expression of a teacher’s political views can be damaging, school can still be a platform for healthy public debate among students. Creating a safe space to debate current events or political issues is integral to the development of a student’s opinions. Hearing the thoughts of others is an important part of developing your own, and school should be a place to discuss contemporary issues. The important part of such discussion is for the teacher to abstain from adding their own opinions, acting solely as a moderator, not a contributor.

In many states, education reform has begun to strip away pieces of curriculum seen to be politically motivated. This, however, I do not support. The events occurring in states such as Florida are in and of themself politically motivated, and damaging to the education system.

The issue here at WHS is not one of needed curriculum or policy reform, but enforcement of the existing rule on controversial expression. Political issues need to be discussed in schools, teachers just need to be responsible enough to teach the issues without inserting their own bias.