UPDATE: "Controversial Issue" policies omnipresent in local scho - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: "Controversial Issue" policies omnipresent in local school districts

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MADISON (WKOW) -- As 27 News was first to report on Tuesday, Janesville School Superintendent Karen Schulte apologized to Craig High parents for a pro-gay marriage video shown to students at the school in April, because an opposing viewpoint was never presented.

"We have lots of controversial issues.  We have board policy on controversial issues," said Dr. Schulte.

That policy covers a range of issues like immigration, voter ID, abortion and even evolution.

"I think that's an issue (evolution) where there's more than one area of thought and both sides should be presented, or multiple sides in that case," said Dr. Schulte.

Janesville is hardly alone. Virtually every school district in Wisconsin now has some sort of controversial issues policy.

"The polarization of our society has created more emphasis on these kinds of issues,"said Dr. Peter Burke, the director of the doctoral program for education administrators at Edgewood College.

While some of these policies have been around for decades, Dr. Burke says there is no question they have been expanded and utilized far more in recent years.

"Everyone has a very focused view on the controversial issues and is more willing to speak that view and it is, I think, more prevalent now," said Dr. Burke.

Burke says his graduates are fighting these battles far more than their predecessors.

"They have to be sure that what they're doing is linked to the curriculum.  But at the same time, its not an issue to ignore.  The students hear about it, they read about it.  It needs a place for conversation in a very fair way," said Dr. Burke.

Since the list of what is considered controversial changes, most districts have very broad policies which can be easily tweaked.

But Dr. Burke says there is a difference between what is considered controversial and simply unacceptable. For instance, if a person suggested an opposing view to slavery or the holocaust be presented, a school district would have every right to reject that idea entirely.


MADISON (WKOW) -- As 27 News reported on Tuesday, the Janesville School District Superintendent apologized for Craig High showing students a pro-gay marriage video because it violated the district's "controversial issues" policy.  That policy states that if a controversial issue is going to be brought up at a school, all sides of the issue must be presented to students.

But the Janesville School District is hardly alone in having such a policy. Virtually every local school district has a policy in place to address the teaching/presentation of controversial issues.

Coming up on 27 News at 6, Greg Neumann will examine the rise of these policies and why school districts have put them in place.

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