Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), reflective of the philosophy of the city of Berkeley, stands as a beacon of free speech and inclusion, embodying a rich history of fostering open dialogue and embracing diverse perspectives. Renowned as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) in the 1960s, the city of Berkeley continues to champion these ideals of individual expression and civic engagement.Ìý
With a vibrant community that values inclusivity, BUSD remains at the forefront of progressive education, providing a platform for students, staff and families,Ìý to express their thoughts and opinions within the established guidelines.
These are the foundational values we hold as we strive to design classroom spaces where students can consider a range of perspectives and express their truths as an important step toward graduating from BUSD ready to make positive contributions to the world.Ìý
Our classrooms are spaces that cultivate and nurture:
- Empathy and Humanity
- Critical Thinking and Intellectual Curiosity
- Inclusion and Respect
- Academic Rigor & Excellence
- Love and Joy
Teaching controversial issues is approached with a commitment to fostering critical thinking, open dialogue, and a deep understanding of multiple viewpoints while centering the needs of our students. Recognizing the importance of equipping students with the skills to engage with complex topics, educators in BUSD navigate controversial issues in a thoughtful and inclusive manner. The district values free expression, encouraging students to express their opinions while emphasizing the importance of respectful discourse. Teachers within BUSD are dedicated to creating safe spaces where students can explore differing viewpoints, encouraging intellectual curiosity and promoting a culture of informed civic participation. By addressing controversial issues within the framework of critical inquiry and in the context of grade level/subject matter standards, BUSD strives to prepare students for active and responsible citizenship in a diverse and dynamic society.ÌýÌý
While BUSD fosters an environment where all voices are not only heard but celebrated, it also steadfastly stands united against hatred in all its forms. In the face of hate, BUSD advocates for tolerance, understanding and unity which enables us to uphold our four Eâ€™s of excellence, equity, engagement and enrichment.Ìý
Policy & Guidelines
BUSDâ€™s Governing Board believes that students should have opportunities to discuss controversial issues which have political, religious, social, historical, or economic significance in an age appropriate manner with educator guidance and support. The study of a controversial issue should help students learn how to gather and organize pertinent facts, discriminate between fact and fiction, draw intelligent conclusions, build empathy and respect the opinions of others.
The Board expects teachers to exercise caution and discretion when deciding whether or not a particular issue is suitable for study or discussion in any particular class. The Board also expects teachers to ensure that all sides of a controversial issue are impartially presented, with adequate and appropriate factual information. Without promoting any political, religious, social, historical, or economic point of view, the teacher should help students separate fact from opinion and warn them against drawing conclusions from insufficient data.
To learn more about the Districtâ€™s policy on teaching controversial issues, please review BUSD and 6144.
BUSDâ€™s Governing Board is committed to providing a teaching and learning atmosphere which is free from unreasonable censorship and artificial restraint upon free inquiring, learning and academic freedom. Teachers shall be afforded the broadest freedom to teach within the State law, since evaluation of multiple sides of controversial issues is one of the means by which students learn how to search for truth and develop the increased capacity to make sound and mature judgments. The controversial nature of a subject shall not bar its discussion in the schools. In the interest of the freedom to teach, all employees shall be encouraged to express all views, including the option of responsibly sharing their own, within the guidelines prescribed by State content and Board policy.
Free speech, as a fundamental democratic right under the First Amendment, encompasses the freedom to express ideas and opinions without censorship or retaliation. In general, the First Amendment safeguards speech when expressed as a private citizen discussing a matter of public concern. However, if speech occurs while fulfilling job responsibilities within the scope of the duty day, the First Amendment does impose limitations on protecting that speech. Teacher speech should be guided by the expectation of legitimate educational purpose. This is because such speech is typically viewed as representative of the school district rather than that of an individual private citizen. Similarly, our students have a right to exercise freedom of speech and expression in a manner consistent with the law and Board Policy, as long as it does not disrupt school activitie²õ.Ìý
To learn more about the Districtâ€™s policy regulating studentâ€™s freedom of speech and expression, please review BUSD .Ìý
BUSDâ€™s Governing Board prohibits hate speech and all forms of hate-motivated behavior. Hate speech involves expressions (including written and/or verbal such as racial slurs, verbal name calling or display of offensive materials) that promote violence, discrimination, or hostility against individuals or groups based on attributes such as race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other protected characteristics. Hate speech is recognized as a harmful form of expression that undermines principles of equality, humanity, and mutual respect.Ìý
To learn more about the Districtâ€™s policy regulating hate motivated behavior, including hate speech, please review BUSD .Ìý
Any student or parent/guardian or staff member who believes that they have experiences or witness non-compliance with any District policies is strongly encouraged to raise this issue with the school site principal, vice principals, counselor, teacher or any trusted adult as soon as possible in writing or verbally.Ìý
If the student, parent/guardian or staff member would like to report an incident involving a school site administrator or if they feel that the school site did not address their concerns appropriately, they can file a complaint with the Civil Rights and Compliance Office directly.
For resources and information regarding how and when to file a complaint, please visit the Civil Rights and Compliance Office website or contact the Compliance Officer directly at:
District Civil Rights and Compliance Office
2020 Bonar Street, Room 117, Berkeley, CA 94702
Phone: (510) 486-9338; Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgÌý
Resources for Teachers
It is important for students to have opportunities to share and discuss what they are seeing, hearing and feeling about whatâ€™s happening in the world. In order to understand and process their feelings and address any trauma in a constructive and secure manner, students depend on the guidance and assurance of adults within their school community. We recognize classrooms serve as productive spaces for students to process information because our teachers work to ensure that our classrooms are safe, welcoming and inclusive.
As teachers consider challenging subjects, they take into account the age, maturity of their class, as well as the context of related academic content standards for the grade level/subject area. It is also important for teachers to support, create, foster and nurture learning spaces that are humanizing and responsive to our beautifully diverse student population.
The following resource links may be helpful for teachers:Ìý
- This framework from USF professor Judy Pace, supports educators to teach about controversial topics with care.
- These 3rd-12th grade lessons bring studentsâ€™ lived experiences into the classroom to help build empathy and connection.
- These lessons support elementary through high school students to co-create schools that are inclusive and safe for all children.
- This resource is primarily for best practices in having workplace conversations with peers around politically sensitive issues.
- This guide from nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves gives educators ideas for how to prepare students to engage in reflective conversations on controversial topics.
- This infographic from the News Literacy Project provides an overview of the pervasive use of misinformation and how people can be more critical readers of news and other information.
Resources for Families
Tips for Talking to Kids
- : American Psychological Association gather resources about speaking with your kids about difficult topics.
- : Learning for Justice offers recommendations and resources to help guide conversations with young people and to manage potential subsequent actions and reactions.
- : Common Sense Media gathers tips and conversation starters to help you talk to kids of different ages about the toughest topics.
- : Common Sense Media offers language for talking to and listening to children when they see or hear about violence in the world.
Resources for Current Events
Tips for Talking to Kids about Israel and Palestine.Ìý
Resources linked below are not comprehensive and the list here does not imply an endorsement of any one particular political perspective.ÌýÌýÌýÌý
- : The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, shares ways that adults can prepare themselves to have difficult conversations with children about humanitarian crises.
- contains tips for families from The Skimm.
- was created by the National Association of School Psychologists.
- : VeryWell Family explores ways families can speak with young people about war, including tips on sharing information and restricting media coverage.
- : UNICEFâ€™s guide offers eight tips to support and comfort your children.
Books that Nourish Jewish and Palestinian Student Identities
- By Wendy Wan-Long Shang, Madelyn Rosenberg
- by Hannah Moushabeck
- By Saadia Faruqi
- By Richard Michelson
- By Aya Ghanameh
- By Ken Mochizuki
- By Naomi Shihab Nye
- By Nancy Churnin
- By Reem Kassis
- Jewish American Heritage
- Arab American & SWANA Heritage