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AP 205: Teaching About Controversial Issues


The Division believes that controversial issues are those topics that are publicly sensitive and upon which there is no consensus of values or beliefs. They include topics on which reasonable people may sincerely disagree. Opportunities to deal with these issues are an integral part of student learning in Alberta. Globalization has produced an ever-growing multicultural aspect of our society. These forces have converged to create a situation in which there are more and more conflicting values and viewpoints held among Albertans. Controversial issues need to be treated with sensitivity and fairness in the Division. This treatment will result in more open-minded, sensitive, questioning and empathetic attitudes among our students thus contributing to their development as well-rounded citizens.


The Superintendent believes that with skilled teaching, controversial issues that are age and grade-appropriate, and curriculum relevant, can be thoroughly aired without bias, to facilitate learning and foster greater understanding and respect.

  1. Attention must be focused on facts, rather than on opinion and controversy. Facts mean all relevant information.
  2. All relevant facts and opinions on an issue will be considered by all students.
  3. Participants will engage in orderly discussion and outcomes related to the development of reasoning, logic, public speaking and democratic process are to be encouraged by teachers. Some value may come from permitting students to air their opinion at first, and then reflect on what has been said after the presentation and discussion of facts.
    Teachers, students and others participating in studies or discussions of controversial issues shall exercise sensitivity to ensure each individual is treated with respect and feels comfortable voicing their position on controversial issues.
  4. Teachers may state their own opinion as such, when questioned by students or where relevant to the curriculum. In making such statements, however, the personal nature of the view must be stressed (e.g. “this is my personal belief...”) so that the objectivity of the discussion may be retained and that the teacher’s opinion is one of many.
  5. The teacher shall ensure that discussion of a controversial issue is not needlessly prolonged and shall remain in the context of the prescribed curriculum. The discussion of current events is part of the prescribed curriculum.
  6. Those whose viewpoint is not yet formed shall be encouraged to “suspend judgments” until the important facts are discussed.
  7. Teachers shall preview videos and materials in advance of presentations to students.
  8. Participants in a discussion shall not ridicule or embarrass another individual for his/her beliefs.
  9. If digital content or printed material contains information or opinions that are thought to diverge from those held by several people in the local community, parents have the right to withhold a student from participation
  10. If guest speakers are invited to discuss a controversial issue, the qualifications of the speakers shall reflect expertise in the area under study. The principal needs to approve guest speakers who are invited to discuss controversial matters.
  11. As per Section 58  of the Education Act, notification to parents/guardians is required where the instructional materials, exercises, outcomes or courses contain subject matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion or human sexuality: This section does not apply to incidental or indirect references to religion, religious themes or human sexuality in a course, program of study, instruction or exercises or in the use of instructional materials
  12. In the event, a teacher, student or parent/guardian expresses concerns regarding controversial issues or resources:
    1. The Principal shall arrange a meeting with the individual(s) bringing forth the challenge to discuss the nature of the concern.
    2. If the issue cannot be resolved at the school level, the Principal shall advise the individual(s) bringing forth the concerns to the Superintendent in writing, who may direct a division representative to address the matter through a dispute resolution process.