10 recent school controversies that got people talking

  • There have been many instances of girls being told to change their clothes due to being “distracting” to boys in the classroom.
  • Controversial homework assignments have asked students to examine the positive aspects of slavery in American history.
  • A Texas school banned the bestselling young adult novel “The Hate U Give,” a book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many schools offer debate classes for students to practice presenting compelling arguments and responding to rebuttals. But schools often find themselves at the center of political and social debates.

From banned books to dress code violations, here are 10 controversial issues that got parents, administrators, and students talking.

A Tennessee school district apologised after a homework assignment asked students to pretend that they owned slaves and set expectations for them.

Brendan DeBrincat/flickrThe assignment asked students to imagine that they owned slaves.

A school district in Tennessee apologised after a middle school homework assignment at Sunset Middle School in Franklin, Tennessee, asked students to pretend that their families owned slaves and set “expectations” for them.

Daniel Fountain, who said his 13-year-old sister was given the assignment, shared a picture of the worksheet on Twitter.

“It initially made me angry. The fact that my sister is one of a couple of black kids at her school, I can’t let things like this sit around and slide,” Fountain told the Tennessean. “The way the questions were phrased and laid out had no academic merit. “

Following backlash, the school district apologised for the assignment. In a letter to Sunset Middle School parents, which was also shared on Twitter, superintendent Mike Looney said it was “wholly inappropriate and doesn’t reflect our district’s commitment to treat all students with dignity and respect” and pulled the assignment.

Two teachers resigned as a result of the controversy.

A school assignment asked students to list “positive aspects” of slavery.

PixabayNot your typical homework assignment.

An eighth grade American history teacher at Great Hearts Monte Vista in San Antonio, Texas, assigned a worksheet entitled “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View” in which students were asked to list both “positive aspects” and “negative aspects” of slavery.

A parent posted a photo of the assignment on Facebook, and other parents and community members began sharing it. It caught the attention of Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, who called it “absolutely unacceptable” on Twitter.

The school issued an apology in a statement on Facebook.

“To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity,” the statement reads. “It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologise for the insensitive nature of this offence.”

However, current and former students argued that the lesson was being misconstrued.

“I had to do this assignment once, but before he handed us this EXACT assignment we had a good discussion of how in the end there was really no ‘pro’ side to slavery,” a former student wrote on Instagram. “Mr. Thomas never put any student to fight in the position of the ‘pro’ side of slavery. THE POINT OF THIS PROJECT WAS TO SHOW WHY PEOPLE ALLOWED FOR SLAVERY TO GO ON FOR SO LONG, NOT TO APPROVE OF SLAVERY.”

Tensions were high as Omaha’s school district considered updating their sex education curriculum.

Paramount PicturesSex education in ‘Mean Girls.’

CBS News reported yelling and pushing at school board meetings as Omaha, Nebraska’s, school district considered updating its sex education curriculum in 2016 for the first time since 1986. The updated comprehensive curriculum contains information about sexual orientation, birth control, and emergency contraception.

Per CBS News, Nebraskans for Founders’ Values, a conservative Christian organisation, called it “pornography under the guise of education.” Footage of a woman named Deanna Rabuck went viral as she told the board, “I have five daughters! Five daughters! Who’s going to keep them pure? I am! Not OPS!”

Others expressed support for the updates.

“I have a right to this information,” Ryleigh Welsh, a sophomore at Omaha’s Central High School, told CBS. “Sexual health is more than just sex. It’s about understanding and taking care of your body and being prepared for a healthy future.”

A Texas school banned the bestselling young adult novel “The Hate U Give,” garnering criticism from the author.

20th Century FoxAmandla Stenberg plays Starr in the movie adaptation of ‘The Hate U Give.’

Katy Independent School District superintendent Lance Hindt removed all copies of “The Hate U Give,” a book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, from the district’s school libraries after a complaint about the book’s drug use and explicit language, according to Vulture.

The author of the book, Angie Thomas, expressed her feelings about the ban on Twitter.

“I’m saddened to hear that a school district in Texas banned #TheHateUGive, but I’m also empowered – you’re basically telling the kids of the Garden Heights of the world that their stories shouldn’t be told,” she wrote. “Well, I’m going to tell them even louder. Thanks for igniting the fire.”

A federal appeals court panel ruled that schools can allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

Wikimedia CommonsAnyone can use single-stall bathrooms at the school.
Boyertown School District’s transgender student bathroom policy allows students to use the bathroom and locker room that matched their gender identity regardless of gender assigned at birth.

A student filed a lawsuit alleging that the policy violated his right to privacy, according to NBC News. Five other students joined the lawsuit and were aided by the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom. The federal appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision to keep Boyertown’s bathroom policy in place.

Per NBC, Ria Mar, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, praised the rule, saying that “Choosing to use that individual space and being required to use it because of who you are – that your very presence is unacceptable to others – is a very different thing.”

A school board deemed a play containing “adult relationships” and “innuendo of sexual nature” too controversial for a Michigan high school to perform.

FoxA scene from ‘Glee.’

The “adult relationships” and “innuendo of sexual nature” in the play “Almost, Maine” prompted its cancellation at Benzie Central High School, superintendent Matt Olson told WPBN/WGTU News. It was replaced with the play “Our Town” despite student demonstrations at a football game.

“We have to keep in mind who our audience is, often we have elementary students coming to see these plays so we have to take that into consideration,” Olson said.

It’s far from the first time a school has canceled the production of a play due to concerns about its content. The Educational Theatre Association lists dozens of plays along with reasons why they have been canceled by administrators.

When a Texas teacher announced a new “no-homework policy” for her classroom, people had opinions.

David McNew/Getty ImagesA mother helps her daughter with homework.

Brandy Young, a teacher at Godley Elementary School in Godley, Texas, gained national attention when she instituted a no-homework policy for her second-grade students.

Her policy read:

“After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.

Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”

A parent posted a photo of the policy on Facebook, which went viral and sparked debate.

“Is that how we want to prepare kids for college and then real life?” one commenter wrote.

David Bloomfield, education professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York graduate center, previously told INSIDER that “the lasting educational value of homework at that age is not proven.”

There have been many instances of girls being told to change their clothes due to being “distracting” to boys in the classroom.

Courtesy of Kari KnopThe shirt Lizzy Martinez was wearing when she was allegedly pulled out of class.

A 17-year-old junior at Braden River High School named Lizzy Martinez said she was told to put Band-Aids on her breasts after school officials claimed her nipples were distracting male students.

Kelsey Anderson of Joplin High School, also 17, was reportedly told to leave class after her teacher said she violated her school’s dress code by being “busty” and “plus[-]size.”

Reese Franyo, a sixth grader in the Charleston County School District, was reportedly told by a teacher to change her outfit because her denim skirt looked like she should “be clubbing,” according to a Facebook post by her mother Suzie Webster, who had bought the skirt for her.

Students and parents across the US have begun pushing back against school dress codes that they say objectify female students.

Students’ social media posts outside of school have gotten them in trouble with administrators.

Two 14-year-old students at Findlay High School in Ohio were suspended after posting a promposal that referenced school shootings.

The photo, which has since been removed from Instagram, showed the two students holding plastic guns and a sign reading “I hate everyone, you hate everyone. Let’s shoot up the school at homecoming.”

The picture was not taken on school grounds during school hours, but police were called to the scene. It was determined that there was “no immediate threat,” superintendent Ed Kurt told The Courier.

“The situation is under control and the incident is being handled appropriately with the safety and security of our students, staff, and visitors always the focus,” the principal wrote in an email obtained by The Courier. “It is a way of asking someone to the homecoming dance. Unfortunately, these two students took that message to a completely different level that is completely inappropriate.”

The graphic content in “13 Reasons Why” has raised concerns among teachers.

NetflixA scene from ’13 Reasons Why.’

13 Reasons Why” was the most-tweeted about show in 2017, and made headlines for its graphic portrayals of sexual assault and suicide.

The Parents Television Council issued an “urgent warning” about the series’ second season, citing statistics such as a 26% increase in Google searches for “how to commit suicide” following the release of the first season.

Teachers across the US began warning parents about the series after hearing students say things like “Miss, wait until you get my tape,” one teacher told the Los Angeles Times.

Creator Brian Yorkey defended the show’s controversial scenes, saying that “talking about it is so much better than silence.”

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