A Chicago Public Schools test question that had seventh-graders read anti-immigration commentary by a fictitious Bush administration official and conservative writer whose name sounds like controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio has been scrubbed from the curriculum — and officials say the whole thing was a misunderstanding.
The nation’s third-largest school district pulled the question from its online database earlier this month after a total of 32 seventh-graders from two classes took the REACH Performance tests, which are administered to measure student growth and teacher effectiveness. This particular version of the exam asked students to compare the authority of differing opinions on immigration, including one written by "Arie Payo."
“I think it’s best to keep America for Americans and those who know how to speak English properly,” it reads. “Save America for those of us who know how to behave in law-abiding ways.”
Undocumented immigrants, according to the text, should “go back to where they came from,” continues the text by Payo, who is identified as a former aide to “President Bush’s Immigration Taskforce” and a contributor to the nonexistent “Conservative Journal.”
CPS spokesman Joel Hood confirmed to FoxNews.com Wednesday that the question had already been scrubbed from its database and insisted the “Arie Payo” character was not created with Arpaio in mind, despite being near-homonyms.
“The ‘author’ of this blog post is completely fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental,” Hood wrote in an email.
That explanation, however, didn’t exactly move Arpaio or an immigration advocate reached by FoxNews.com.
"Sounds like my name," the Maricopa County sheriff told FoxNews.com by phone. "Why didn't they have the guts to use my real name? If it is supposed to be me, why didn't they just use my name?"
Arpaio, who began his career as a federal narcotics agent in Chicago, volunteered to visit students there to discuss the "very complex issue" of immigration, but questioned the effectiveness of introducing the issue in such a political way.
"It's such a complex issue that even the president doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to immigration," Arpaio continued. "So, what's this question about? Is it politics? Is it propaganda? I don't know, but there's so many other good programs to talk about with the kids. This is interesting."
Arpaio said he has no intention of reaching out to CPS officials, but reiterated that his offer stands.
"If they want the real Joe Arpaio, they can give me a call," he said. "I'd be glad to talk to the kids."
Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, agreed with the outspoken sheriff whose office has systemically racially profiled Latinos in its immigration and traffic patrols, a judge ruled nearly a year ago. Arpaio denies those allegations and has appealed the ruling.
“They either had him in mind, or it’s the world’s greatest coincidence,” Dane said. “It’s an incendiary and politically charged way to frame a question about a subject that students should consider in a balanced way with a historical perspective."
Dane also questioned the value of using a public official for the sake of parody — regardless of any implicit or implied similarities to Arpaio — adding that even the fictitious character “Arie Payo” was characterized as a former aide to President Bush and was posited as a staunch anti-immigration advocate.
“This is the antithesis of what kids ought to be taught,” Dane told FoxNews.com. “It’s biggest sin is interjecting a deliberately partisan perspective on immigration. We need a bipartisan approach and we’ll never get there like this.”
Edwin Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said it’s clear the question was a “fairly misguided” approach to test persuasive argument in our nation’s current immigration debate.
“There are a number of voices on the subject that could have been considered without reaching these extreme arguments,” Yohnka wrote in an email.
CPS officials, meanwhile, have replaced the exercise altogether.
“REACH Performance tests are prepared by a team of CPS librarians and teachers in partnership with CTU to help measure teacher effectiveness inside the classroom, and this specific exercise was intended for students to evaluate the authority and point of view of sources,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement obtained by FoxNews.com. “Teaching children the importance of diversity, acceptance and independent thinking are important values at CPS. We apologize for any misunderstanding and have provided librarians an alternative test to administer to students.”