BLUFFTON, Ind. (WFFT) -- The Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District approved two policies regarding "controversial material" at a board meeting Monday.
This comes after a Bluffton Middle School teacher hung a rainbow flag — often seen as a symbol of LGBT pride — in her classroom last month.
“That flag in question was removed from the classroom. The level of advocacy that teacher has for that flag doesn’t change just the board looking at all materials decided that curriculum should be the item on display in classrooms,” Superintendent Brad Yates said.
The first policy states what’s okay to be posted in the classroom.
Only materials relating to the curriculum and instructional goals of the course are allowed to be displayed.
The second policy states what’s acceptable to discuss in the classroom.
Controversial topics must relate to the curriculum, there must be multiple viewpoints, it must not indoctrinate or persuade students and it must encourage open-mindedness.
“It’s not this can be taught or this can’t be taught, it’s more if you have a controversial issue, here are the guidelines to use to best teach that topic,” Yates said.
But what does “controversial” even mean?
“Controversial has a definition, two opposing viewpoints on a topic. We're not in the business of identifying what is and isn’t controversial,” Yates explained.
But the district has taken a clear stance that a rainbow flag is controversial.
“The question I have is why? Why is the existence of a group controversial?” GLSEN of Greater Fort Wayne Board Member AJ Lorenzini asked.
GLSEN is a national organization that advocates for LGBT students from kindergarten-12th grade.
Lorenzini disagrees with the district’s decision.
“Taking away that symbol of LGBTQ inclusion signals to them that they’re not welcome or that it’s not a safe environment for them to be around. If you’re there to learn and you’re being told you as a person are seen as controversial, you’re not welcome here, you’re not going to be focused you’re not going to learn,” Lorenzini said.
Yates says that’s not the case.
“Creating the policy was not the end of the conversation, rather a starting point for our community to engage in that conversation and find a way to continue improving the areas of inclusion, diversity, equality and equity,” he said.
Bluffton-Harrison created a community working group made up of 12 educators, mental health professionals and religious leaders. Yates hopes that these meetings will help the district better serve its students.