School officials stand by teacher after LGBTQ, racial equality survey controversy

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

In Smithfield, North Carolina, school district officials are defending their decision of sending a LGBTQ rights and racial equality survey to schoolchildren, without prior approval or permission from parents. The main contentions from the parents were that the surveys were not guaranteed to be anonymous and were not approved beforehand by parents.

According to a local news website, sixth grade students at the Innovation Academy, a part of the Johnston County Public Schools system, received the surveys. Two parents told the Johnston County Report that the surveys were part of a math assignment, but they were told conflicting messages about how the surveys were prepared. One parent recalled that she was told that high school-aged students prepared the survey, while the other anonymous parent was told that seventh graders prepared it.

Yet the survey was not anonymous, according to these sources. The survey specifically asked for the student’s name and religious beliefs, without proper explanation about whether it was mandatory for grading or not. After contacting the principal and school district officials, the parent was told that the survey was anonymous and there was no recourse to change the survey’s content.

The school’s principal, Kelley Johnson, reportedly did not back down from criticism and claimed it was an unnamed student’s idea to include LGBTQ rights and racial equality topics in the survey. Johnson responded to a parent’s concerns in an e-mail, which read as follows:

“The surveys are anonymous and the students who received them agreed ahead of time to receiving a survey.  The students who developed the surveys had voice and choice in the topics they focused on, and the students who agreed to receive them can always decline participation at any time and for any reason.  The collection of the data is all part of a math assignment that is part of a PBL the 2nd year Pioneers are working on.”

But parents disputed Johnson’s contention that they were anonymous and optional, pointing out that their children were not told whether it was optional or mandatory, the surveys were in their children’s school e-mail inboxes with other graded assignments, the surveys asked for their child’s name, and the survey response was linked to their child’s e-mail account with the school.

Another of Johnson’s reported e-mails said, “The assignment that was presented to students has allowed each individual to use their passions to make a positive impact on the world.”

When asked, school system superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy acknowledged that procedures had to change regarding controversial topics, but stood by teachers. Typically, the Johnston County Public School system requires parental notification when surveys are conducted by school staff. But the loophole allows a survey created by a student, which formed the crux of Bracy’s argument to support teachers and students who want to address controversial topics such as gender identity, a waiver on this rule. Bracy wrote, “The surveys in this case were not administered by school staff.  A team of teachers at one of our schools designed a project-based learning assignment for seventh-graders in which students were to develop their own surveys of adults and other students and analyze the results.”

Bracy added, “Several students and adults received surveys about LGBT attitudes as part of student projects. Because this was not a staff-administered survey, our parent notification rules did not apply. However, we recognize that parents are concerned about how controversial topics are taught at school, whether as part of an assignment or in classroom discussion by students.” He gave administrative staff the assignment of updating their rules on how to handle similar situations in the future.

A local LGBTQ advocate blasted the survey controversy and said it was wrong for it to be distributed the way that it was. Rev. Dr. Wendy Ella May said, “I think it is a very inappropriate survey. First of all, to ask an 11 year-old about LGBTQ. Second of all, without contacting parents it is inappropriate.”

The school district made a major mistake and its best response was to silently blame parents for their outrage while issuing a supportive statement of the teacher in charge of the assignment. The teacher who made the mistake was not named nor was disciplined, based on news reports.

Smithfield is a small city located thirty miles southeast of Raleigh and has a population of over 12,000 people. The county school district serves over 37,000 students, according to its website. As one can see, the left-wing indoctrination effort is a nationwide issue and not solely restricted to politically-blue school districts.