New LISD policy on reading materials, teaching, discussions

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

At the August 26 board meeting, the Leander ISD Trustees approved language for policy updates related to instructional materials adoption and the teaching of controversial issues in the curriculum. 

The policy update specifies that:

  • Resources containing sensitive content or addressing sensitive issues, including but not limited to sexuality, violence, or profanity shall be subject to careful scrutiny and review. 
  • Parents/guardians shall be provided notice of possible reading selections in the district English Language Arts classes for grades 6-12 including, titles, summaries, and identification of potentially sensitive topics or themes.

LISD trustees approved the policies in a 6-1 vote with Jim MacKay voting against approval. 

The board policy subcommittee has been working with district staff and consulting with legal counsel for months on language addressing these topics.

This comes about after parents raised concerns about sensitive or inappropriate book content starting last fall. In November, LISD initiated a review on the 2020-21 high school student-choice book club titles.

According to sources, review cycles from the Community Curriculum Advisory Committee found that 100 books in the 2020-21 book club unit met review criteria. Of those books, 13 did not meet the criteria and were removed, and six books were paused in use pending further review.

As of last week’s board approval, LISD now has guidelines about “teaching about controversial issues.” 

New guidelines 

The district shall address controversial topics in an impartial and objective manner. Teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues. Students and educators shall ensure that, to the extent possible, discussions are conducted fairly and courteously. 

A teacher’s professional responsibilities demand objectivity in presenting various sides of controversial issues contained within the curriculum. Teachers shall be well informed in areas being studied and capable of providing instruction on the subject, free of personal bias. Methods of presentation shall focus on learning, stimulate inquiry, and promote critical thinking and analysis.