(Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comments from HPISD chief of staff and communications director Jon Dahlander)
A link to a Dallas City Wire story claiming eighth graders in Highland Park ISD were asked to complete a survey asking about their ‘gender identity’ is circulating online, but Highland Park Middle School principal Christopher Miller said Wednesday that eighth graders weren’t assigned such a survey.
Miller also said no one from Dallas City Wire reached out to him or the campus.
“Apparently, this is a factually incorrect news story that is being circulated online making this false claim,” he said.
HPISD chief of staff and director of communications Jon Dahlander said the questions referenced in the Dallas City Wire article are from an online implicit bias test through Project Implicit, which originates at Harvard University.
“The purpose of the exercise is to show how a person’s experiences can affect their biases,” Dahlander said. “These tests through Project Implicit have been referenced by some of our 11th-grade history teachers as part of their study of bias.”
He added that the questions referenced in the Dallas City Wire story weren’t from anything the district created or assigned to all students or to all 11th-grade students, and no one from Dallas City Wire reached out to others in the district.
Students who go to the Project Implicit site are given the choice of which one of 14 tests to participate in—including weight, religion, disability, and race among others, Dahlander said.
“It appears that one and perhaps 2 of those 14 tests may contain the question regarding sexual identity (it apparently does not appear every time) but it is important to note that test takers may decline to answer the question,” he added.
Identifying bias is one of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in social studies at the 11th-grade high school level. According to the TEKS, students are to “identify bias and support with historical evidence a point of view on a social studies issue or event,” he added.
Dallas City Wire is part of the Metric Media News network, which is owned by Brian Timpone, a former TV reporter. Timpone has in recent years created a vast network of local online sites that have come under fire for “pay-for-play” articles where, in some cases, clients pay upwards of $2,000 to determine how a story will work in their favor – and without any indication to the reader that the story is sponsored content.
Most publications of any size do take sponsored content, but are careful to balance ethical and editorial concerns by noting the story is, in essence, advertising.
We reached out to Metric Media News and Dallas City Wire for clarification on their news gathering for their story, and have not received comment.
We asked three specific questions:
- Did they see the actual link to the survey?
- Was it an HPISD url?
- Did they reach out to the district for comment?
We will update this story when they respond.
People Newspapers deputy editor Bethany Erickson contributed to this report.