Is it OK for schools to collect personal information on parents through students?
In a Massachusetts school district, this exact question is being hotly debated after Harvard Graduate School of Education administered a survey to students that many believed crossed boundaries of privacy in the home.
In early November, students grades 6 and up in the Triton Regional School District were asked to take an optional survey that dived deep into their home life, and now their parents are not happy. This survey focused specifically on parental views on issues related to race and economic inequality, with questions such as “Do your parents do anything to help people who have less money?” and “How fair do your parents think it is that some people in this country have a lot of money and others just have a little money?”
Some of the questions even asked students to compare their parents, rating them on subjective values, including honesty and benevolence.
Even though parents were informed that their children would be taking the survey and sample questions were provided, they don’t feel the sample questions were actually representative of what Harvard intended to accomplish. As one parent told FoxNews:
“The sample questions on Harvard’s website are nothing like what was on the survey,” she said. “My kids have no idea how much money I make and how much money I give to people. And frankly, it’s none of the school’s business — or Harvard’s, for that matter.”
The school’s superintendent has since apologized for questions that “at times intruded inappropriately into family matters.”
A quick glance through the comment section makes one thing very clear: Just about everyone agrees that family privacy was breached when the school decided to administer this survey.
The whole incident raises a very important question: Is it ever OK to ask students to share information concerning their parents and their home life?
And if it is OK sometimes, when is a line being crossed? What should kids be expected to share, and what should they be allowed to keep private?
In a world where a large portion of child abuse and neglect are reported through the school systems, it is important to create a culture of open communication between students and the counselors and teachers at their school. That is why so many safeguards, including mandatory reporting laws, have been put in place, to allow children to safely disclose if there is danger in their home.
But it seems Harvard took things too far, creating a culture where it is OK to ask children to share completely subjective and personal information about their family with schools. A line needs to be drawn, forbidding schools from inquiring about any family or home life topics that are not directly related to student safety. This survey has created an opportunity for parents around the country to talk to their children about privacy and respecting our loved ones enough to avoid discussing personal information with school officials, friends or coaches, while reminding them they should always speak up if they feel they are in danger.
And in this case, asking children as young as 11 years old to disclose their parents personal political opinions, including their financial giving habits, is not a matter of safety — it is just plain nosy.