Northeast Tarrant

Teacher disciplined after quiz asks students if they would be comfortable visiting a gay bar

The Birdville school district disciplined a teacher from North Richland Middle students were assigned a controversial survey that was deemed inappropriate.
The Birdville school district disciplined a teacher from North Richland Middle students were assigned a controversial survey that was deemed inappropriate. Star-Telegram archives

A Birdville school district teacher has been disciplined after assigning sixth-grade students a survey that asked them to rate their comfort level with being asked to visit a gay bar or having a Palestinian-Muslim roommate.

The questionnaire titled, "How Comfortable Am I," was not age-appropriate for sixth-grade students, according to several parents from North Richland Middle interviewed by Star-Telegram media partner WFAA. The middle school is in North Richland Hills.

Ashley Brent told the Star-Telegram she was shocked when her 12-year-old son came home on Feb. 7 and showed her the questionnaire. He took pictures of the 41-question survey because it made him uncomfortable.

Brent's son told her: “Mom, they gave us a really weird test in class today."

Brent said she called the teacher to ask why the test was given. She was told it was part of diversity curriculum for Black History Month.

Brent said she also complained to the campus principal and to administrators at the Birdville school district. She said administrators eventually told her the lesson was a mistake.

"The survey was not developed or distributed by the district," said Mark Thomas, spokesman for the Birdville school district. "We agree the survey was not appropriate and disciplinary action was taken."

Thomas would not say if the teacher was suspended.

Brent said she worries similar lessons with themes that are best addressed by parents will emerge again.

“I want them to be more alert to what is being given out at their school,” Bent said.

The survey was included in a social skills class called, PASS, or Positive Approach Student Success, Brent said. She said her son had questions about the survey after he received it, including "What is an exotic dancer?"

Brent said these are topics students should be handled by parents.

“This is not something that is school-appropriate,” she said.

Issues of racial tolerance and how not to judge others can be addressed in lessons about historical figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., she said.

“It is common sense,” Brent said.

The survey, which is posted on WFAA's Facebook page, asks students to rank on a scale of 1-4 their level of comfort with a variety of scenarios.

Other scenarios in the survey include:

*Your sister invites her new boyfriend home to dinner. He is a female-to-male transsexual.

*You arrive at church and discover your new pastor is a woman.

*Your new roommate is Jewish

*Your dentist is HIV-positive

The Birdville lesson issue follows a controversy in Austin in which a student was asked to draw herself as a slave.

Also, The Washington Post reported last year that a Florida middle teacher was fired for assigning the same survey to students.

This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

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