Memo advises Wake County teachers after ‘diversity inventory’ controversy

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County school leaders Friday issued a list of “guiding principals” for teachers after a controversial “diversity inventory” was conducted at one school that some say asked students to reveal personal information.

The assignment on the second day of the school year asked students to answer subjects like their gender, sexuality, religion and socioeconomic status.

The 10th graders in an English class at Heritage High were also asked about people in their life, like their friends and doctor.

The memo Friday from Wake County Public School System was addressed to teachers and said officials “value the rights of students to maintain their privacy.”

“Lessons and activities should also respect the privacy of students,” the memo also said. “Students should not be asked or encouraged to reveal information about their identity or other sensitive, personal information.”

The memo released Friday also stressed that teachers are “examples and role models to students” and advised the teachers about revealing their own opinions to students.

“Appropriate discretion should be exercised when deciding whether or not to share your own personal information and opinions while carrying out official duties as a school employee,” the message said.

Here is the full memo from Wake County school officials:

WCPSS Teachers,

As you may have seen through recent media reports, there has been some public discourse over the past week regarding an assignment at one of our schools.  Recognizing that there may be questions that arise from this issue, we believe it is important to share some information and guidance that may be helpful to you.

First, please know that we value the efforts of teacher leaders who each day are creating learning experiences that promote inclusion, honor students’ differences and unique identities, challenge stereotypes, and ensure that the overall classroom environment is one where every student feels confident to both have and use their voice as a part of the learning process.  These core beliefs are foundational to the work outlined by our Vision 2020 Strategic Plan.

We equally value the rights of students to maintain their privacy and engage in conversations of identity, self, culture, and other personal topics only when they are comfortable doing so and when appropriate to achieve outcomes outlined in the NC Standard Course of Study.

As we work together to find the balance that honors both of these values, we want to ensure that we are all operating with full knowledge of guiding principles and laws for our work:

  • Lessons should be firmly grounded in the learning objectives for the grade level or course and be appropriate for the maturity levels and abilities of students.
  • Lessons and activities should also respect the privacy of students.  Students should not be asked or encouraged to reveal information about their identity or other sensitive, personal information.  Students should not be asked to complete any surveys without the approval of the principal and only in compliance with applicable law.
  • Federal law (Protection of Pupil Rights) places legal restrictions on any surveys on the following topics:
    • (1) political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent;
    • (2) mental or psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
    • (3) sex behavior or attitudes;
    • (4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
    • (5) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
    • (6) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
    • (7) religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent;
    • (8) income.
  • As stated in Board Policy 2305 Code of Ethics and Standards for Conduct, teachers “are responsible for the education of students and also serve as examples and role models to students”.  Appropriate discretion should be exercised when deciding whether or not to share your own personal information and opinions while carrying out official duties as a school employee, as outlined in section II-B of Board Policy 2305 R&P (2) and the Code of Ethics for North Carolina Educators.
  • Use of supplemental materials may require approval of the principal or designee prior to use in the classroom, as outlined in Board Policy 3200 Selection of Instructional Materials.

We collectively acknowledge that as classroom teachers, you do the most meaningful and challenging work in our district.  It is the goal of our district’s leadership to support you fully in that work.  If there is any doubt about whether a planned classroom activity is appropriate for classroom use you should consult with your school-based administrators, professional learning team members, or content specialists at Central Services to support you when you have questions or when you are incorporating a new resource or strategy. 

Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Drew Cook

WCPSS Assistant Superintendent for Academics

Dr. Rodney Trice

WCPSS Assistant Superintendent for Equity Affairs

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