NC school pulls lesson that asked students about their gender, sexuality and religion

A Wake County high school has pulled a lesson that asked students to answer questions about their gender, sexuality, religion and socio-economic status.

According to parents, an English teacher at Heritage High School asked 10th-grade students on Wednesday to answer a “Diversity Inventory” worksheet asking personal questions about themselves, their friends and their family. In a statement Thursday, the Wake County school system said that after a parent complained, the principal reviewed the activity and directed the teacher to discontinue the lesson immediately.

“While we value efforts to build a classroom community that is inclusive and respectful of all students and backgrounds, the Wake County Public School System also respects and values student privacy and their right to engage in discussion about personal identity when they are comfortable to do so,” the district said in the statement.

“The Diversity Inventory worksheet in question is not a district-provided resource. We will continue to work with educators on how to effectively lead important conversations connected to identity, culture, and other sensitive topics as appropriate.”

The worksheet asked students to identify their gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexuality, ability, religion and socio-economic status. In addition to answering for themselves, students were asked to answer those question about their elementary school, their teachers, close friends, doctor, other people who live in their home and their neighbors.

Dina Bartus, whose son is in the English class, said on Facebook that the teacher shared that she was bisexual while explaining why she felt it was appropriate to give out the assignment.

“Now it gets better, not only does she ask these questions but she asks them stand under each of these titles based on questions she asks,” Bartus said in her Facebook post. “Example: What makes you the most privileged? Needless to say there was an email sent. And it is only the second damn day of school.”

The activity drew complaints on social media from across the political spectrum.

“Now class, Please say your name, religion, gender, label everyone in your life as skin #colors, tell us your sexuality and socioeconomic status,” Angela Humphries, a frequent critic of the school district, tweeted Thursday. “Welcome to 10th grade English class at Heritage High in @WCPSS.”

Former Wake school board candidate Shaun Pollenz said LGBT students shouldn’t be forced to publicly out themselves or to lie about their identity. Pollenz, who is gay, ran for Wake school board in 2018.

“This shouldn’t be allowed in any schools, much less our fabulous public schools here in Wake County,” Pollenz said on Facebook. “It’s unfortunate that board members don’t feel responsible for curriculum matters. They should be doing their jobs to make sure our students don’t encounter filth like this during their formative years.”

In its statement, Wake said that it appreciated the parent bringing their concern about the assignment to the school’s attention.

“Parental involvement is crucial to student success,” the statement continued. “Students and parents should always speak with their teacher and principal about any assignment that they have questions about or that cause them concern.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.