The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, September 09, 2021 11:57 am

Bluffton schools form group to address diversity

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

A Bluffton school district has formed a group to address diversity issues regardless of whether the board passes policies that might require an eighth-grade science teacher to remove a pride flag from her classroom.

The policies were passed on first reading at a Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School Board special meeting Aug. 24. The school district issued a statement Thursday that it has “developed a working group to discuss, consider, and recommend options related to access, equity, diversity, acceptance, and success.”

The group of a dozen includes school administrators, pastors from local churches, social workers, and Bev Balash, the eighth-grade teacher who has the LGBTQ+ pride flag in her classroom. The group is planning on holding its initial meeting Sept. 20.

“Regardless of any upcoming policy decision by the school board, our district will continue to broaden our inclusive practices to create learning opportunities where all students feel safe and accepted,” a news release states. “We believe our district will have greater success by leveraging the support and partnership of local service agencies, organizations, and professionals in our community.”

The classroom postings policy that might prevent the pride flag in classrooms was introduced with a 3-2 vote. The drafted policy states classroom postings can't contain "materials, such as political or religious material, that is unrelated to the curriculum and instruction goals of the courses of study conducted in that classroom."

The controversial issues policy, which includes criteria for teachers to follow when discussing controversial topics in class, was introduced with a unanimous vote.

More than 350 people attended the August special meeting to share their opinions, most of which were in favor of the pride flag staying in the classroom.

Balash spoke openly about the pride flag hanging in her classroom at the special meeting and said it lets students know that her classroom is a safe space. She asked the board to let her keep the flag in place.

dfilchak@jg.net

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