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‘Dark secrets’ assignment at Lone Peak High stirs controversy

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HIGHLAND, Utah -- Students at Lone Peak High School are upset with their English teacher after they say she forced them to talk about their deepest secrets in class.

It all began with the book "Speak," about a teenager with a deep secret. Later in the book it turned out the secret was she had been raped.

Teachers decided to branch out and ask their students to write down their own secrets but some students say these secrets are too serious to be discussed in class.

"They attempted suicide, that their dad had been in jail for five years, they were addicted to drugs," said sophomore Cody Collins.

These are just a few of the secrets that Collins said his classmates were forced to talk about in their 10th grade English class on Monday. He said it was uncomfortable because it was so real.

"It just got quiet for a few minutes, and nobody seemed to talk and this weird vibe came into the room," Collins said.

The Alpine School District said every secret on display was typed and anonymous. The point of the assignment was to let students know everyone has problems, and help is available.

"There are lots of things that weigh on kids’ minds, especially teenagers -- you know there are a lot of things that you are dealing with," said Kimberly Bird, Assistant Superintendent of the Alpine School District.

Sydney Conlee said she is all in favor of students getting the help they need, she just doesn't think a 10th grade English class is the right place.

"So I raised my hand and I said that we shouldn't feel pressured to talk about anyone's secrets in class. We don't know whose secrets they are but it still can hurt their feelings and ours," said sophomore Sydney Conlee.

While many students didn't respond at all, others responded the wrong way.

"They would laugh about them and giggle and talk to their friends about it and it would be hard if that was your secret and you would see people laughing about it and making jokes about it," Collins said.

The Alpine School District stands by the assignment.

"We hope they know that they can talk to a teacher, obviously parents are number one, but we hope they know they can talk to a teacher about anything they are struggling with," Bird said.

27 comments

  • Jane

    Does no one remember how many suicides Lone Peak had last year? Not to mention the number of attempted suicides? These students are emotionally immature and their attitude toward mental health as being “awkward” or “too real” is the very reason why a kid struggling with depression would rather go and off themselves instead of seek help. And instead of having a mature and meaningful conversation about why these secrets may have been unsettling to them and how they relate to an intense piece of literature and the human experience, they go and cry to the news and bad mouth their teacher because they got a little uncomfortable. It’s pitiful.

      • J

        Students at charter schools perform better because they want to be there. Their parents have payed large amounts of money, and expect more of them due to this. So no infer they perform better.

    • ERIC ANDERSON

      And yes Jane, charter schools are outperforming public schools because they focus on providing an education instead of some moral agenda.

      • Jane

        The students were reading a book called “Speak” where a girl carries a heavy secret, and later reveals that she was raped. The secrets assignment was ONE supplement to the discussion of the theme of the book and was initiated to provide a real life connection – something students yearn for in their education. As shown in the comments from students who were actually in the class when this happened, the verbiage has been misconstrued. No one was forced to share anything if they didn’t want to, and the follow up activity was that students were invited to respond to the secrets as a means of support for their peers who struggle with some of these heavy issues and to encourage students to seek help when needed. It wasn’t the forced therapy session these students made it out to be. And this was certainly not the only activity in the curriculum for this book, so the argument that this was solely part of some moral agenda is misinformed. The state-mandated curriculum for an English 10 class has to do with analysis of textual evidence in literature, recognizing themes, grammar, and basic writing skills. So contrary to the public’s opinion, teachers aren’t actually spending every class just having their students sit in a circle, holding hands and singing kumbaya while they talk about their feelings.

        And by the way, I’m all for charter schools. And I’m fine admitting that they have the ability to outperform public schools because the U.S. education system is deeply flawed. But this instance is not an example of that.

    • MELISSA

      Maybe the teachers should tell the students their deep dark secrets. It might prevent a lot of them from committing suicide. (Sarcasm for school administrators with no common sense.)

    • ANOTHERBOB

      So what does a teacher do with an anonymous type written note saying the author wants to kill themselves or kill the teacher?

  • anonymous

    I am also a student at Lone Peak ,and never did I feel pressured to write down a secret or speek about someone else’s. In fact I didn’t submit a secret to the teacher. They made it very clear that it was “completely optional” and was not required. Walking into class was not “awkward” or weird, it just had a more serious feel. We did not read them aloud or mock in any way. The teacher concluded the lesson by explaining how you never know what someone is going through, and gave students the opportunity to reply to some of the secrets, students stood up and shared hoping that maybe whose ever secret it was, would hear them. Some responses being (in reply to the attempted suicide secret) “I’ve been there, I know what you must be feeling, but I promise it gets better. Just know that you are not alone and I am here for you.” No one ever stood up and attacked any of the more serious or less serious secrets.

    • ERIC ANDERSON

      What do your deep dark secrets have to do with a high school english class? Is this something to do with No Child Left Behind?

      • Anonymous

        Like it said, the classes are reading a book entitled speak. The book is about a high school freshman who deals with a large secret. The day we did this activity, we read about the characters’ secret. The activity of the secrets prepared us for reading about the secret in the book. It was never intended to harm or humiliate.

    • analogismos

      thanks for being the voice of reason here.
      The rest of y’all should drop your pitchforks and take your torches and shine them into your own dark corners.

    • ANONYMOUS

      I think that this assignment was absolutely necessary and should be done starting in middle school. My daughter had this assignment at 8th grade camp and it is the reason I found out that she was being molested by a family friend. Most kids are afraid to tell anyone what is happening to them because they feel ashamed or don’t know what will happen moving forward. The anonymous way the secrets were being told generated a sense of safety for my daughter as she was able to write down her secret and listen to the others as they were read aloud. As the group leader read some of the secrets aloud; my daughter realized that she was not the only one this had happened to or was currently happening to. That experience helped give her the strength to tell an adult. This man is no longer hurting her as we contacted authorities and he has now been convicted for a term of 20 years. These types of activities in a classroom setting can assist children with the issues they are living with that us parents/adults are not aware of.

  • student292

    I am an actual student that was in this situation, none of the parents were there to witness what our English teacher actually said. She never pressured us to do anything. I like that it is different from what we normally do in class and it was an eye opener for me. I am more sensitive to people’s feelings now and I try to reach out to others. There will always be immature people that will make jokes or laugh but that shouldn’t stop us from having serious moments. This secret assignment was not “over the top” what was over the top is having this reported on the news and a teachers reputation in jeopardy. We’re not in elementary. Shame on our English teacher to think a bunch of sophomores could be mature enough. (Sarcasm)

    • ERIC ANDERSON

      Pardon me for being sceptical but you wrote this comment at 8:27 AM this morning? Shouldn’t you be in school at that hour of the morning? Are you sure you are actually a student and not a faux pretend student? Hummmmmm?

      • student292

        there’s this thing called a free period and aren’t you an adult or something? shouldn’t you be at work doing something better with your life than arguing with teenagers over the Internet.

      • STUDENT292 IS A FAKER

        @STUDENT292
        One free period at 8:27 AM and another free period at 9:39 AM? You can be anything you want on the internet. You could even be STUDENT292 …… but you aren’t.

      • analogismos

        someday, someone will invent devices that fit in one’s pocket or backpack and allow one to post on the internet wherever they find themselves.

  • Knight for life!

    “There simply is no pill that can replace human connection. There is no pharmacy that can fill the need for COMPASSIONATE interaction with others. There is no panacea. The answer to human suffering is both within us and between us” —- I am a Junior at Lone Peak High School. I had to do this assignment for my sophomore English class, and I read the book, Speak, cover to cover. It was very refreshing compared to the textbook work we were doing. ((the secrets portion of the assignment was optional. It always has been as this isn’t the first time a teacher in the English department has given out this assignment. ))
    I stand behind this assignment and this teacher, and all of the English teachers at Lone Peak. When we are too uncomfortable to talk about suicide and addictions and the dark aspects of our human nature, that is when we lose our humanity. That is when we lose our connection to each other. It makes me sad to think that these students felt “uncomfortable” being real with one another. We spend six hours together five days a week, and yet we are all a thousand miles away from each other. I cannot express enough thanks to the staff at Lone Peak for fostering a safe environment where we are encouraged and have to ability to choose to create true, meaningful, sincere relationships.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      So what does a teacher do with an anonymous type written note saying the author wants to kill themselves or maybe the teacher? Makes a lot of sense only if you are a fuzz headed liberal.

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