A school district in Springboro, Ohio, is currently considering a proposal which would allow controversial subjects, such as creationism, to be discussed in classrooms in order to encourage critical thinking among students.
The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out against the "Controversial Issues" proposed policy, asking Springboro Community City Schools officials to abandon the policy which, it claims, seeks to "advance creationism in the classroom."
The policy, which was discussed at the Springboro school board meeting last Thursday, seeks to allow the discussion of controversial subjects in the classroom so that students may learn to think critically.
"Properly introduced and conducted, the consideration of such issues can help students think critically, learn to identify important issues, explore fully and fairly all sides of an issue, weigh carefully the values and factors involved, and develop techniques for formulating and evaluating positions," the policy reads.
The policy goes on to identify what may be considered a controversial topic worthy of classroom discussion, which includes "evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence … gun rights, global warming and climate change," among other things.
Additionally, the policy lists "UN Agenda 21," a United Nations action plan which addresses sustainable development.
"The role of the teacher in the presentation of assigned issues is vitally important," the policy states. "All sides of the issue should be given to the students in a dispassionate manner. The goal is for the students to be taught to think clearly on all matters of importance, and to make decisions in the light of all the material that has been presented or can be researched on the issues."
The ACLU has issued a letter to the school district, asking them to drop the proposed policy.
"It's the job of families, not public schools to educate children on spiritual values," ACLU of Ohio Staff Attorney Drew Dennis stated in the letter. "It is irresponsible for schools to repeatedly waste resources designing these types of unconstitutional policies."
The letter also references a similar incident in 2011, when the ACLU threatened to sue the Springboro School District if it approved a similar policy to teach creationism in its public schools.
Multiple media reports indicate that last Thursday's meeting showed varying opinions regarding the proposed policy.
Kelly Kohls, Springboro Community City Schools board president, told local WLWT that she believes it is important to give students the opportunity to freely discuss controversial issues.
"There's a lot of controversy over other issues, but these are kind of the big ones that we want to allow people to talk about it in the classroom," Kohls told the local news station.
Jim Rigano, board member of Springboro Community City Schools, told the Dayton Daily News that he believes the policy is an "attempt to ensure we're not indoctrinating one point of view or another."
Others, however, argue that the classroom is no place for such controversial issues that will surely generate a heated debate among students.
"I am a big proponent of teaching kids critical thinking, but I don't think you throw them into a controversial issues discussion to teach them critical thinking," one parent attending Thursday's board meeting told WLWT.
"You teach them to critically think so they can deal with those issues," the parent added.
As Hollie Reedy, chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association, said in an email to the Dayton Daily News, Ohio's official education standards teach evolution.
"Schools may teach about controversial topics and may debate controversial topics in classrooms," Reedy said in the email. "Currently, though, Ohio's science standards teach evolution."
There are currently only a handful of states which allow students to critically analyze the evolutionary theory inside the classroom.
The Springboro school board will vote on the proposed policy by early June.