DESE director, parents respond to concerns over P.E. activity

2 years 8 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, March 25 2015 Mar 25, 2015 Wednesday, March 25, 2015 3:49:00 PM UTC March 25, 2015 in News
By: Tori Chamberlain and Katie Grunik, KOMU 8 Digital Staff

FULTON - A director with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education responded to concerned parents Wednesday regarding what critics call an "inappropriate survey" conducted at Fulton Middle School the previous week.

Gavin Allan, Director of Civil Rights Compliance at DESE, issued an email response to parents who were concerned about the survey activity called "Claim It", which asked students personal questions about sexual orientation, finances and more.

In his response, Allan said:

"I reviewed the activities and assessments, as well as the grade-level expectations and standards for Health and Physical Education on the Department's web pages. I did not find any reference to the "Claim It" activity, nor did I find anything that appeared to be remotely similar."

One day earlier, officials with Fulton Public Schools sent an email to all parents, and included the following statement:

"After gathering more information about the activity done in the PE class on Friday, it has been learned that the activity is called Claim It and was part of a day focused on Character Education. The activity is aligned to the Missouri State Standards for health and is also a part of the FMS Health Curriculum."

In his response to the discrepancy, Allan noted that local school districts are governed by locally elected boards, and DESE has little to do with governing these issues. He suggested concerned parents file a formal complaint with their district.

Community members spoke out Tuesday as parents of Fulton Middle School students grew upset over the activity, which took place last Friday.

Gym teachers were to name a category to the students and the students that identify with those categories were asked to move across the room to reveal things about themselves to the rest of the class. The school provided a copy of the activity prompts to KOMU 8 News, which can be found here

Some of the categories in the game asked students whether someone in their family is currently serving time in prison, if the student or someone in their family has ever been raped or sexually molested, and if they'd ever been physically abused. Some parents say the questions their children were asked were inappropriate.

Some parents uploaded Allan's statement to the website of the group Parents for Fulton Schools.

Dr. Amanda Murdie has a sixth-grade daughter who participated in the survey, and is also a member of the organization, as well as one of the parents who emailed DESE with her concerns. 

Murdie said the situation is unfortunate and plans to take her concerns to the next school board meeting. The organization is considering taking up the concerns. 

"This not a witch hunt for any particular teacher...this is a teaching moment for the school district," Murdie said. 

The group is also considering investigating the incident as a violation of the students' civil rights. 

[Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most current information available.]

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