Education

Former New York State ‘Sensitivity Review’ Guidelines

June 12, 2002 4 min read

Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills ordered last week that these guidelines be replaced with less restrictive ones.

1. Gender Considerations

a. Does the material favor one group over another?

b. Does the material present a stereotype of females or males?

c. Does the material use language, content, or context that is offensive to males or females?

d. Does the material use language, content, or context that is not accessible to or is not easily understood by either males or females?

2. Race/Ethnic Considerations

a. Does the material favor one racial or ethnic group over others?

b. Does the material portray one or more racial or ethnic groups in a pejorative or stereotypic manner?

c. Does the material use language, content, or context that is offensive to one or more racial or ethnic groups?

d. Does the material use language, content, or context that is not accessible to one or more racial or ethnic groups?

3. Religious Considerations

a. Does the material favor one religion and demean others?

b. Does the material portray one or more religions or religious leaders in a pejorative or inappropriately stereotypic manner?

c. Does the material use language, content, or context that is offensive to one or more religions?

d. Does the material use language, content, or context that is not accessible to or not easily understood by one or more religions?

e. Does the material require the parent, teacher, or examinee to support a position that is contrary to their religious beliefs or teachings?

4. Considerations for English as a Second Language

a. Does the material contain language that is either unclear or not comprehensible?

b. Is the vocabulary inaccessible or needlessly unfamiliar?

c. Are there any false cognates?

d. Do the questions or stimuli require cultural knowledge that is irrelevant to the subject matter?

5. Age Considerations

a. Does the material favor one age group over others except in a context where experience or maturation is relevant?

b. Does the material portray one or more age groups in a pejorative or inappropriately stereotypic manner?

c. Does the material use language, content, or context that is offensive to one or more age groups?

d. Does the material use language, content, or context that is not accessible to one or more age groups tested?

6. Disability Considerations

a. Does the material degrade people on the basis of physical appearance or physical, cognitive, or emotional challenge?

b. Does the material focus on a disability to the exclusion of portraying the person as a whole?

c. Does the material make assumptions about what a person with a disability can or cannot do?

d. Does the material suggest how a person with a disability feels about their disability?

7. Socioeconomic Considerations

a. Do the constraints of socioeconomic access to material resources interfere in a student’s ability to relate to the material?

8. General Considerations

a. Does the material require a student to take a position that challenges parental authority?

b. Does the material present violence gratuitously, disproportionately, or in an overly graphic manner?

c. Does the material present gratuitous or overly graphic speech?

d. Does the material assume that the examinee has experience with a certain type of family structure?

e. Does the material present inflammatory or highly controversial themes such as death, wars, abortion, or euthanasia, except where they are needed to meet test specifications?

f. Does the material suggest that affluence is related to human worth?

g. Does the material assume values not shared by all test- takers?

h. Does the material present sexual innuendo?

i. Does the material degrade people or cultures from certain regions of the country?

j. Does the material accept or fail to denounce criminal, illegal, or dangerous behavior?

k. Does the material require examinees to disclose values that they would rather hold confidential?

l. Does the material use contexts or settings that may be differentially interesting or familiar (sports, war, violence, rural life)?

Guidelines for Universal Access to Science Questions

Reproduction

1. Wherever possible, frame reproduction questions using animal examples if they cannot accord the full dignity required for human reproduction.

2. Always use animal examples for artificial reproduction.

3. Avoid gratuitous graphic depictions of human reproduction or human reproductive systems.

Theoretical Propositions

1. Wherever a theory is described, make certain it is presented as a belief or theory and attribute the author.

2. Wherever possible, base test questions on what can be reliably observed rather than on hypothetical constructs as they relate to the origin of the species and the origin of the universe.

3. Use descriptions of processes and avoid jargon, e.g., describe the observation of differential survivability and reproductive viability rather than simply referring to natural selection.

Guidelines for Universal Access to Social Studies Questions

1. Wherever possible, draw a clear distinction between the acts of adherents to a religion or belief system and the teachings of that faith.

2. Avoid questions that ask students to evaluate the efficacy or truth of a religion or belief system.

3. Religions should be discussed in historical rather than religious contexts.

4. Avoid questions that preclude some students from responding by virtue of their religion or belief system.

5. Avoid pejorative or stereotypical portrayals of people in cartoons that demean racial, ethnic, or religious membership.

6. Accord respect to belief systems and religions and do not portray adherents as fanatical or unintelligent.

7. Avoid gratuitous violence.

8. Design questions to enable children to build a cogent argument in support of a position that is not contrary to their faith.

SOURCE: New York State Education Department

A version of this article appeared in the June 12, 2002 edition of Education Week as Former New York State ‘Sensitivity Review’ Guidelines

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