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Milford School District tables policy change addressing "controversial" and "sensitive" topics

The Milford School District Board of Education meets to discuss policy changes.
Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
The Milford School District Board of Education meets to discuss policy changes.

Milford School District’s Board of Education tables a proposed policy change focused on controversial and sensitive topics in school.

The proposed policy changes introduced last month sparked opposition among students, parents, teachers and other community members. The change would require staff to keep the educational environment free of “controversial/sensitive material,” described as any material that “arouses strong reactions representing differing points of view.”

The policy draft continues, ‘there are many subjects, which by the nature of contemporary society, are intrinsically controversial/sensitive.”

It also directs staff to present and permit multiple viewpoints and the expression of opinions of others.

The ACLU of Delaware sent a letter to the Board opposing the policy, arguing it is overbroad and vague. At Monday’s board meeting, over a dozen people reiterated those concerns, including former public school teacher Diane Fleming.

“Who is going to decide what is offensive and what is not offensive? I mean where are we going with this?" Fleming says. "Is it going to be Florida where, ‘don’t say gay’? Are teachers going to feel intimidated? Can history teachers teach history? World history is pretty brutal. There is a lot to be upset about.”

Another educator, Alexis Sciuto, questions whether a topic such as pineapple on pizza would also be banned, since she says that discussion also elicits what could be deemed as a “strong reaction” from her students.

“Might this require teachers to provide perspectives in favor of the Holocaust?" Sciuto says. "Because that is a horrific thing to think about. And what terrible consequences might that entail? This policy and its definition as they are leave too much room for interpretation.”

Board member Adam Brownstein defended the proposed policy.

“This policy is not an attempt at censorship of speech," Brownstein says. "Quite the opposite. This policy is not an attempt at censorship of teaching. Nothing in this policy would prohibit the teaching of topics, even those that are sensitive or controversial.”

Brownstein proposed amendments to the policy changes. One would remove language requiring teachers to present multiple viewpoints. Rather, staff will permit and encourage them, letting teachers “off the hook” to decide which viewpoints are legitimate.

Another amendment would remove language that keeping “conduct” out of the classroom that could interfere with a student’s learning environment – Brownstein says by amending that to just “items,” it removes stipulations on the actual teaching.

Those will be reviewed and discussed at the board’s July 15th meeting.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.