Loudoun School Division Drafts Policy to Teach Controversial Topics

The School Board is working on a new policy to support teachers as they present controversial curriculum material to students. 

Administrators presented Policy 5420, Teaching About Controversial and Sensitive Issues, to the Curriculum and Instruction Committee on Monday. Board members questioned if such a policy is necessary, and recommended a number of changes.

A few examples of such topics that are the Holocaust, slavery, colonialization, immigration, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Ashley Ellis said. She indicated that many students have first-hand experience with immigration, making it a challenging topic for them to discuss.  

The Department of Instruction defines a controversial topic as one that has “significant academic, social, political or ideological matter” about which there are opposing viewpoints or multiple perspectives.

The policy is intended to satisfy a model policy put forth by the Virginia School Boards Association to support teachers, but is not mandated by the Virginia Department of Education. 

Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) questioned whether the policy was essential.

“These days most controversial topics are also sensitive; I can’t come up with one that wouldn’t be both. I’m also struggling to figure out why at this point, so many things the division is doing is misunderstood, we’re trying to codify this in policy,” she said. 

Ellis said that there was a general consensus among educators that such a policy would be helpful. 

“Schools are under more scrutiny for what they’re teaching. Our teachers have asked for support in how to approach these topics with confidence,” Ellis said.

The policy also would require that all teachers are offered trainings in dealing with touchier social topics. Currently, those yearly trainings are only offered to social science teachers, and spaces in the sessions are limited. 

The policy would only apply to topics currently in the curriculum. 

“This isn’t a charge for teachers to impose controversial topics,” Ellis said.

Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn) suggested that the policy or its regulations should provide that parents be notified if controversial topics not included in the curriculum are being discussed in class. 

“If it’s going to be that controversial and that sensitive that it’s not part of the curriculum, then I think the parents should have a choice,” Mahedavi said. 

During the public comment portion of the Dec. 2 meeting of the Equity Committee, River Bend Middle School teacher Andrea Weiskopf critiqued the policy for not taking a clearer stance on Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights.

“Is the School Board ready to have parents use this policy to claim that LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter are controversial matters? Because in my classroom I will not debate the humanity of anyone,” Weiskopf said.

The Department of Instruction staff plans to revise the policy with the committee feedback before sharing it for public input ahead of the Dec. 14 School Board meeting. 

9 thoughts on “Loudoun School Division Drafts Policy to Teach Controversial Topics

  • 2021-12-03 at 3:42 pm
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    How ’bout teaching them to read first, given that literacy rates have plummeted over the last decade.

  • 2021-12-03 at 4:00 pm
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    Teach the truth. Don’t be intimidated by the Neanderthals.

    • 2021-12-03 at 7:56 pm
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      The problem is so many mistakingly believe what they hear from Biden, the other dem liars, the media and Hollywood is truth.
      Teaching kids to identify themselves by race and assigning guilt because of skin color is racism not anti racism and these fools believe.
      And yes, the holocaust was a horror that actually happened. That should not be controversial.
      And yes, America is a place of opportunity and freedom for all despite the historical stain of slavery. Why do so many from all over the world want to come here?

  • 2021-12-03 at 4:05 pm
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    The board and the schools just can’t stop themselves from playing with matches and gasoline. It’s like they want to make sure the whole system is engulfed in their manufactured chaos. We really need to put some adults in charge of the schools and the classrooms. The current lunatics can’t control themselves.

  • 2021-12-03 at 6:18 pm
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    Andrea Weiskopf teaches 12 year old’s Latin. What do BLM and LGBTQ rights have to do with the Latin curriculum? If parents had any doubts as to whether some teachers were using their classrooms as political or social justice platforms, this pretty much confirms it.

  • 2021-12-04 at 3:31 pm
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    Is the the same school division that wanted to charge a parent THIRTY-SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS ($36,000.00) for a FOIA request?

  • 2021-12-05 at 5:18 am
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    This is needed due to the heavily contested topics discussed by public comments and also new policies that not all teacher feel confident in enforcing. When there is change, we need to adapt and be on the same page. I appreciate this policy to try and bring a much needed consistency factor within LCPS so that it is clear that support is available, can be provided, and that topics should be free from bias.

    Loudoun has become increasingly polarized and I appreciate this policy as an attempt at a more moderate approach towards teaching controversial topics. Some teachers are extremely uncomfortable with their new non-academic focus that is more about social justice. Perhaps this can help build a much needed bridge between the public teachers and the public in general. Grateful teachers can finally have consistent support and I truly hope administration follows up with support requested by teachers who are uncomfortable with specific topics that are heavily lobbied in the community. We need to find the middle ground in Loudoun and LCPS. This is a wise first step forward.

  • 2021-12-06 at 12:47 pm
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    Freedom of religion is about freedom FROM religion. The Alliance Defending Freedom, Cornerstone Chapel, and the Family Research Council have done their best to destroy people who don’t fit into their narrow definition of being good. I do not want to be ruled by a “magic book” filled with crazy stories.

    • 2021-12-08 at 2:09 pm
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      Nobody is asking you to be “ruled” by anything. The ADF, FRC and Cornerstone have done more good in one week than you will in your lifetime. If you don’t like the fact that this country was FOUNDED on religious freedom, then maybe move or get a constitutional amendment passed. Otherwise, while you can believe human beings can choose to be another gender, race or maybe even animal, the rest of us believe in science.

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