School sends students ‘invasive, inappropriate’ survey designed to be a ‘simulation’ of McCarthyism

Kendall Tietz, DCNF

A Michigan high school teacher assigned a survey that asked students personal questions about their home life, according to a copy of the survey obtained by an education advocacy group.

A teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School assigned a survey that asked students if the adults in their home voted in elections and if they did, for which political party, according to a copy of the survey obtained by education advocacy group No Left Turn in Education (NLTE) and shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. The school wrote a letter to families Monday after the survey was administered explaining the it was part of a “simulation” to teach students about McCarthyism.

Students believed the survey, which was released on official school letterhead, to be real and that their parents could not opt them out of it, according to NLTE.

Survey questions asked students for their complete names, home addresses, who they live with, if they attend church and if so, which one, how many bedrooms are in their house and if anyone in their family had been accused or convicted of a crime. Other questions asked if their family has a car, if they visit the doctor, if anyone in their family has been to a psychologist and if so, why, if alcohol was allowed in their home and if their legal guardians had ever lost their jobs.

NLTE called the survey “invasive” and “inappropriate” and believes the survey to be a “glaring violation” of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, according to a press release. The federal law provides parents with certain rights regarding their child’s participation in school surveys.

School leadership said the questionnaire “looked like an official document” from the school’s administration, but said the survey was “intentionally designed as a simulation of McCarthyism … to make students question the appropriateness of the information being requested,” according to the letter.

“In fact, within a minute, the teacher explained the purpose of the exercise was not to collect this information, but to demonstrate how private citizens’ rights and privacy were invaded during McCarthyism in the 1950s. The document which contained the questions was collected and destroyed,” the letter said.

Grosse Pointe Public School System confirmed that the survey was administered as part of the simulation, but explained that no data was collected, according to a statement provided to the DCNF.

“No student should be made to provide such sensitive information to their school, whether part of a ‘simulation’ or not,” NLTE said in a statement shared with the DCNF. “The school says the surveys were destroyed, but has failed to prove that they were.”

“The potential for abuse is huge, and the lesson it teaches to students – that your school can force you to give up personal information about your family – is one they should never have to learn in the United States of America,” the statement said.

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