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A policy that would ban staff from teaching "inherently divisive concepts" is a hot topic for a Minnesota school district.

The Becker School Board delayed a vote on the proposal, which many suggest would have a sour effect on free speech and restrict students learning the accurate history of racism and LGBTQ-related topics.

During a board meeting on Monday, members decided that a legal review of the policy is needed before they can hold a vote. The proposed policy states:

“Classrooms must be free of any personal bias or non-school materials favoring any particular group, political ideology, favored class or promoting controversial issues," it reads. "Neither political indoctrination or the teaching of inherently divisive concepts will be allowed.”

If passed as currently written, staff and students would be mandated to read the policy and sign a document to cement their agreement with the terms and conditions in the policy, with the language saying "their signed acknowledgement will be part of each student’s and employee’s personal file."

Anyone who violates the policy would face possible suspension, expulsion or firing. 

Of the 11 community members who spoke at Monday's meeting, only one supported the proposal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said the proposal "raises serious legal implications." The organization sent a letter to the school board addressing "censorship" that could create a hostile environment for students of color, LGBTQ students and women and girls in the district.

Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said on Twitter that she was surprised the board's policy did not receive a legal review before it came to a possible vote. Education Minnesota also sent a letter to the board.

"It’s hard to believe the Becker School Board didn’t get a legal review *before* it put this terrible policy out earlier this summer and on the agenda last night," Specht said.

After Monday's meeting, people within the district voiced more concerns. 

"Educators believe school should be a place where ALL students can come to class feeling safe, supported and valued and learn the lessons they need to live and lead in a multicultural, multiracial world," Heather Abrahamson, an adviser with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance for Becker High School, said in a Facebook post.

"Unfortunately, some Becker school board members and leaders are trying to prevent those things from happening by passing policies to silence educators and stop students from receiving accurate and honest lessons about the role of racism, gender and civil rights in our country."

Ron Thiessen (DFL), who is running against Rep. Shane Mekeland (R) to represent House District 27A, attended the board meeting and called the proposal the "suspension of free speech policy." He then called for new board members "before they purge more teachers, intimidate more students and cause more disruption and foolish distractions from the mission of educating children."

He also pointed out the stark hypocrisy of people calling for certain subjects to not be taught and recognized, but others that are void of being addressed.

Thiessen wrote in a Facebook comment: "What is inherently divisive is forcing a white nationalist religious fundamentalist curriculum and political agenda on public school students and teachers."

This marks the second time in 2022 that the school board has made headlines.

In March, the Becker School Board was criticized for allowing an anti-gay presentation at a board meeting. Activists said the Minnesota Child Protection League's presentation offered an anti-transgender message and they questioned why the school district would give the group a platform, according to FOX 9.

The board's decision to allow an anti-gay group to present made national headlines and drew swift reaction from the school community, with many saying there aren't two sides to LGBTQ+ rights. 

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