Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Regulations Governing Local School Boards and School Divisions [8 VAC 20 ‑ 720]
Action Amendments Regarding Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials
Comment Period Ended on 1/15/2014
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12/16/13  11:58 am
Commenter: Kate Goodwin, Charlottesville High School

Use of Controversial or Sensitive Instructional Materials

I am very concerned about this amendment regarding the use of controversial instructional materials. While I understand that some students may not be ready to discuss and explore texts of a sensitive nature, there are several problems with this amendment.

1) It's hard to determine what constitutes sensitive or controversial material. What may be perfect for one student based on his/her development may not be suitable for another. What guidelines should I use for determining which texts to list as controversial in my syllabus? These issues can and should be handled on an individual basis. That's how I've handled them in my classroom--this doesn't need to change.

2) It would be impossible to identify all potentially sensitive or controversial material. I have hundreds of books in my classroom library, and I can't identify every issue in every book. There simply isn't enough time. I would rather spend my time crafting lessons and assessing student progress than flagging "inappropriate" chapters in student choice books.

3) It's important to teach students how to pick books and materials that are appropriate for them and what to do if they encounter material they aren't ready for. When they go to the public library, no one tells them what they can and can't check out. When they leave my class, I don't control what they read or watch. Students need to be taught how to determine what's appropriate for them. This is a valuable life skill.

4) What may be regarded as difficult subject matter often serves as a catalyst for great class discussion. When students are pushed to think beyond their own perspective, they all have kinds of new insights and ideas. Please don't stunt this kind of growth in my students!

I care deeply about my students and have modified my materials in the past to help accomodate students who aren't developmentally ready to read the materials we're exploring in class. I am happy to continue doing this. Please do not waste my time and expertise by asking me to identify questionable content in every material in my classroom.

CommentID: 29621