Policy 321

Policy 321

Abigail Ritzman

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” -Elie Wiesel

This was the quote that Matt Pecic, a librarian at Central Bucks South High School was asked to take down in the midst of the new CBSD policy that bans advocacy on political or social policy issues by staff and teachers.

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, and writer, said this as he was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, arguing the urgent need for advocacy in the face of oppression. Wiesel was not a zealot. His works, including his book, Night, are taught as a part of CBSD curriculum, and the quote itself does not represent a radical thought or social movement. So why is it so controversial in the district? And what does the new school board policy indicate about the direction our district and our country are heading in?

Central Bucks School District Policy 321 states that teachers are not to talk about or show classroom decorations that advocate a certain political or social viewpoint, citing that “The district’s role is to teach students how to think, not what to think, thereby keeping classrooms as places of education, not indoctrination,” (CBSD, Policy 321).

The problem with the policy is that it isn’t specific. Endorsing political affiliations and candidates would understandably be banned, but why would this also be extended to quotes about standing up to oppression, or showing support and solidarity with marginalized groups? Standing up for our neighbors isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. It isn’t about whether you are Conservative or Liberal. Central Bucks School District has a unique opportunity to teach the next generation how to think independently, and how to develop informed opinions. Pretending that controversy doesn’t exist will not promote solutions, or independent thinkers. While Dr. Lucabaugh, the superintendent, has agreed to lead several town halls with an aim of opening dialogue about the administrative guidelines for Policy 321, for many, the action seems like an afterthought. With so much at stake for CBSD students and teachers, open dialogue is a step in the right direction, but only a first step.

Similar issues have arisen in Florida, as Governor Ron DeSantis has placed a ban on a new Advanced Placement course, AP African American Studies, and banned discussions about LGBTQ+ topics in classrooms, citing “parental rights” to educate their children how they wish. While it is a parent’s job to make decisions in their children’s best interest, it is a school’s job to educate students, even when it comes to potentially difficult topics. Denying the existence of problems like racism, antisemitism, homophobia, and misogyny does nothing to fix such problems. Just like Elie Wiesel said, we cannot afford to be neutral. We cannot afford to ignore these problems.

Even though Pecic was allowed to put the quote back up, Policy 321 needs to be amended. As a district we need to encourage respectful debate and discussion, rather than banning topics that could be controversial. Policy 321 needs to prioritize students and their right to feel safe and welcome in their schools over parents and their perception of “indoctrination.” Education (even with regards to difficult topics) actively prevents indoctrination, it does not cause it. As a school district made up of students, teachers, administrators, and parents, we have the chance to learn and grow from previous generations and create a learning environment that is more welcoming and inclusive to everybody. I believe that amending Policy 321 is a good first step.