To the Editors:
I am a retired public school teacher. I taught middle school students for twenty-eight years. It was one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life.
As a general rule, if a survey of any sort is going to be distributed to students, the parents of the students must be notified first and must be given the opportunity to opt their children out of responding to it.
Occasionally, teachers conducting research for their graduate degrees need to involve their own students, and part of that process is obtaining the permissions of the students’ parents.
Students doing research involving other people’s children should also gain parental consent, not just to avoid controversies such as this one, but to ensure that student researchers have authentic educational experiences.
Although it might be fashionable to sneer condescendingly at people who immediately became very upset about the survey, parents across the country have indeed been discovering during the past couple of years that some schools have been scandalously presumptuous, high-handed, and unprofessional in their dealings with students — even very young ones.
Teachers and administrators have lost the assumption that they can be trusted to act in good faith. They are reaping what they have sown.