WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) — During the first week of classes, a teacher at Heritage high school passed out a diversity worksheet, asking high school students about their religion and sexual identity.
Some students got upset about the questions and so did their parents. The school district even sent teachers a reminder about state and federal privacy laws, but not everyone thinks school leaders have done enough. CBS 17 has learned this year was not the first time students were asked questions like this.
An English assignment handed out in class last school year asked kids to reveal the same kinds of private information.
Evan Bundros was at work when he suddenly got a series of panicked text messages from his high school son.
“From the class, he was actually texting me saying, ‘Oh my gosh the teachers asking us our sexuality. Oh my gosh, the teachers asking us what our religion is. Oh my gosh the teacher just told us she’s bisexual,’ and I’m at work thinking, ‘Well, what in the world is going on here?,” Bundros said.
Pam and Rob James got a FaceTime call from their daughter in the middle of class.
“She said, ‘how much is our household income,’ and I said, ‘why do you need to know that?’ Why would she need to know that in English?” said Pam James.
After filling out the worksheet, Heritage senior Lauren Mazzella says different stations were put up around the classroom that said things like sexuality, socioeconomic status, and religion. The teacher asked questions like, which one of these do you struggle with most and the children had to stand beneath that station.
“I just felt very uncomfortable and I was like what’s happening?” Mazzella said.
Parents say this all happened last school year.
“We had gotten assurance from the principal that that was it and it was a onetime thing,” said Rob James.
So you can imagine how these parents felt when they found out a similar lesson was taught again this school year.
“I found out on Labor Day weekend actually by watching your story,” said Pam.
The district says the assignment has since been discontinued. The school admitted a similar assignment was done last year and that this year two teachers used the diversity worksheet. The district sent out a copy of the privacy laws to teachers following our initial story about the diversity worksheet. Parents say the district broke those laws.
Pam said, “You can’t be asked those questions by a potential employer do how do you think it’s okay to ask children minors these questions?”
“This was just not just a rogue teacher that overstepped her bounds a little bit and the school district kind of slapped her on the wrist and said okay were real sorry parents because that’s the message that they are sending out which is not correct,” said Bundros. “What really has happened here is that this is systemically throughout the school district. I have the letter that clearly says it was part of the district lessons and was approved.”
In that letter from the school’s principal sent last school year the principal says, “I would agree with you that these issues about identity and culture are personal in nature and would have been best addressed if the student didn’t have to move about the room to see how others view identities.”
The principal also said in the letter that the lesson has been used and is continued to be used at high schools throughout the district.
CBS 17 asked parents if they planned on taking any kind of legal action, they told us they’ve been speaking with lawyers and are weighing their options. We asked the school if they felt they violated student privacy laws and did not get a straight answer.
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