This is one of the “sexual behavior” questions 6th graders in our district were asked in a year-end survey.
We have learned that the Prior Lake-Savage School District administered a year-end survey to Middle School Students (6th grade thru 8th grade), wherein students were asked “During the current school year, have you participated in the following: Sending partially clothed and/or naked pictures; Touching in a sexual way; Having sex; Talking about sexual topics that make you feel uncomfortable. Students were also asked “Are you GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning). Another question asked in the survey was “Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”. Be reminded that these are children as young as 11 years old.
I respectfully submit that in my opinion these questions are inappropriate for children in the 6th through 8th grade. I believe these subjects are best dealt with by parents when they believe their children are mature enough to discuss “sexual behavior” and to be confronted with the subject of suicide in a responsible manner. I believe that having school staff ask these questions of 6th to 8th grade children without warning and without parental involvement creates the potential for initiation of an unhealthy thought process in the child. In addition to my concern, it should be noted that the MN Department of Education specifically states that “Questions about sexual behaviors are asked only of ninth and 11th grade students”, not of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.
We have learned that our School District administered the survey without any notice or disclosure to parents regarding its contents. While common sense would dictate that this kind of controversial survey should not be administered without parental consent, Minnesota state statute 121A065 is even more specific, stating that a District must “give parents direct timely notice by US mail, email, or other direct form of communication when their students are scheduled to participate in a student survey” and “give parents the opportunity to review the survey and to opt their students out of participating in the survey”. Even our Federal Government in its Protection of Pupil Rights act (often referred to as the Hatch Amendment) requires that student survey materials be made available to parents to inspect prior to use with their child and to require written parental consent if the survey includes sensitive personal questions as were asked in the survey conducted by our District.
Ignoring provisions in state and/or federal law specifically intended to protect children and their parent’s rights and disregarding similar guidelines from the MN Dept. of Educations is inexcusable. Whether these decisions resulted from arrogance which sometimes accompanies authority, or ignorance of the law, neither speaks well of school leadership. Let me be clear that I understand and respect that others may feel that it’s harmless to question 6th graders about their “sexual behavior”, but that does not negate the requirement for parental knowledge or consent as dictated by law and common sense?
These concerns have been communicated to our School Board and to Superintendent Staloch. I invite readers to offer their opinions if they wish to do so.
Wes Mader, Chair
Citizens for Accountable Government