In an effort to eliminate potential "unpleasant emotions" among students, the New York Department of Education has placed a ban on mentions of "birthdays," "dinosaurs," "Halloween," and "dancing," in city-issued tests, the New York Post reports.
According to the paper, the mandate is meant to curb fear that references to those topics might stir controversy among students. Dinosaurs, officials said, could bring up evolution, Halloween could suggest paganism, and birthdays might create animosity among students who are Jehovah's witnesses, since they don't celebrate them.
CBS New York reports the word "poverty" is also not allowed, as "words that suggest wealth" might cause some students to feel excluded. The Center for Educational Innovation's Sy Fliegal told the station the new rules aren't necessary.
“The Petersons take a vacation for five days in their Mercedes … so what," Fliegal said, according to CBS New York. "You think our kids are going to be offended because they don’t have a Mercedes? You think our kids are going to say, ‘I’m offended; how could they ask me a question about a Mercedes? I don’t have a Mercedes!’”
The department is also banning mentions of "divorce" and "disease," in case students have loved ones who are separated or suffering from an illness. "Slavery" is also flagged and "terrorism" is considered too scary.
Department officials told FOX News Nation that the mandates are simply meant to be sensitive to a diverse student body.
“This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction,” a Department of Education spokeswoman told the publication, insisting the move is not censorship.
Robert Pondiscio, a spokesperson for the Core Knowledge Foundation, says the new policy gets rid of topics children relate to the most.
“The intent is to avoid giving offense or disadvantage any test takers by privileging prior knowledge,” Pondiscio told the New York Post. “But the irony is they’re eliminating some subjects, like junk food, holidays and popular music, that the broadest number of kids are likely to know quite a lot about.”