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SERWAN ZANGANA: Learn From Roanoke County School Board To Adopt Unbiased Policies

It was another night and another Roanoke County School Board (RCSB) meeting on July 27, when the school board officials had to face a couple of disruptive members of the audience. The officials responded boldly to a few, angry people who seemed to want to implement their lifestyles in the public schools. The RCSB reminded people that schools are unbiased places built to teach and prepare students for their future careers.

As a community, we need to understand the fact that schools are not forums for teaching and discussing sexual orientations to students. Roanoke County School Board Chairman Brent Hudson clearly explained it this way. “I don’t believe that it’s the right of the government or the school system to discuss these topics with folks’ children” (The Roanoke Times).

The RCSB has reminded residents of the actual duty and responsibility of schools: teaching and respecting every student without any discrimination. As Chairman Hudson said, “I don’t care what gender someone claims to be, we’re going to give that child or staff member or anybody else the support they need to be successful in Roanoke County Schools” (The Roanoke Times).

Apparently, the chaos that broke out in the July 27 meeting traces back to the original issue of some staff members teaching and discussing transgenderism and some other sexual topics with school children, including displaying materials related to those topics. Thankfully, the RCSB members recognized what was happening and reaffirmed that schools must be completely independent from non-curriculum-related materials.

It is noteworthy that last year, RCSB adopted a policy entitled “Controversial Issues that creates a safe and non-discriminatory educational environment for students.” This policy is a filter which prevents materials and subjects that are not related to curriculum from slipping into the classrooms. Below is an example of one important point of the policy that the Board adopted.

1-Staff do not share with students personal political opinions or personal opinions about difficult or controversial topics.(Code 6.02AR).

This shows that RCSB has been striving to keep schools neutral, unbiased, and conflict-free. It is crucial that we all understand that the public schools’ responsibilities are teaching curriculum and preparing students for careers in life. This is the only way that can help us ease the tensions among people that we are seeing now.

Furthermore, the Board recently adopted an important policy designed to protect students from distractions and division. The Curricular and non-curricular School and Classroom Displays (Code 6.02.01) states: “Employees may not use their position or use school or classroom décor and displays to advocate for their personal beliefs about political views, socio-political issues, or religion to students.”

These policies can have two positive impacts on schools and students, and no individual would be affected negatively. One, it closes a door on political solicitations in schools. Two, it opens a door for students to focus on the one important goal, which is achieving success regardless of one’s background, beliefs, and sexual orientation.

All in all, the school boards in other counties and cities, including Roanoke City, can learn a helpful lesson from Roanoke County’s School Board and adopt unbiased policies.

– Serwan Zangana supported Operation Iraqi Freedom as a U.S Army translator before coming to the U.S from Kurdistan, Iraq in 1997 to seek political asylum. He was granted asylum status and years later proudly became a U.S citizen. He currently serves as a correction officer in Roanoke.

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