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Administrative Procedure 205: Controversial Issues

Controversial issues are those topics which are publicly sensitive and upon which there is no consensus of values or beliefs. By their nature they generate diverse opinions and debate on the distinctions between right and wrong, justice and injustice, and on interpretations of fairness and tolerance. They include topics on which reasonable people may genuinely disagree. 

Studying controversial issues is important in preparing students to participate responsibly in a democratic and pluralistic society. Such study provides opportunities to develop the ability to think clearly, to reason logically, to open-mindedly and respectfully examine different points of view, and to make sound judgments.

The following procedures shall govern the discussion of such issues in schools.

  1. Students in classrooms shall not be ridiculed or embarrassed for positions which they hold on a particular issue, a requirement which calls for sensitivity on the part of teachers, students and other participants in dealing with such issues.
  2. In order for students to make sound judgments and draw intelligent conclusions, information regarding controversial issues shall:
    1. Be of an informative nature;
    2. Represent alternative points of view;
    3. Ensure that teachers guard against expressing their personal opinions as fact;
    4. Research an issue thoroughly and evaluate the credibility and reliability of information sources;
    5. Appropriately reflect the maturity, capabilities and educational needs of the students and the Program of Studies for a course;
    6. Reflect the requirements of the course, if applicable, as stated in the Program of Studies; and
    7. Reflect the neighbourhood and community in which the school is located, but not to the exclusion of provincial, national and international contexts
  3. Teachers, administrative staff, students and parents shall have a voice in determining:
    1. The controversial issues to be studied;
    2. The texts and other materials to be used; and
    3. The manner in which such issues are dealt with in the classroom.
  4. Under normal circumstances, the professional staff will resolve the issues should they arise.
  5. Unless the matter under discussion is of an emergent nature arising within the context of a particular class, students and/or their parents/guardians should be advised ahead of time of specific instruction or discussion primarily and explicitly about religion, human sexuality or sexual orientation that is to be dealt with in the course.  On written request from a parent or guardian, a teacher is required to exclude a student without academic penalty from a teaching situation that deals primarily and explicitly with these subject matters.
  6. No student shall be allowed to absent themselves under this administrative procedure from any section of a course defined as core by Alberta Education or the division.
  7. Students who are absented from certain programs or from certain parts of a course are expected to remain in school and will undertake other tasks assigned by the teacher during that period.

Education Act
Alberta Bill of Rights RSA 2000, Chapter A-14
Alberta Human Rights Act
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Constitution Act 1982
Guide to Education, ECS to Grade 12