MA Parents, Students Challenge “Invasive” Survey on “Youth Risk Behavior” With Intimate, Graphic Questions


Parents of students in Massachusetts’ Groton-Dunstable Regional School District challenged a graphic survey issued to children as young as 11 during a committee meeting last week, saying the questions were “invasive” and inappropriate.

At least one student complained that the lengthy survey, which took her “25 minutes to fill out” and contained “a lot of personal things that the school doesn’t need to know.”

High school junior Anna Carney told Boston 25 News that questions like “Do you feel safe at your home? How many times a week do your parents drink?” were not suitable questions for the school to ask.

“It’s not like it’s about safety it’s more like they want to know everything. I think it’s a little excessive and I don’t think it’s actually private. They say it’s anonymous but then they sent it to our school emails,” she said.

The “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” is issued to students as part of a joint effort between the school district and Concord’s Emerson Hospital. It is meant to “set school health and health promotion goals and curriculum,” according to Boston 25, although students and parents appear divided on the issue.

The station said that “Students said questions started innocent and gradually got more invasive, with questions about sexual partners, condoms, frequency of oral sex, and pornography viewing,” which former student Hanna Axon characterized as “invasive.”

“I just thought the questions were a little too invasive. If I had a kid, I wouldn’t want them answering, if I was at the age, I would feel uncomfortable,” she said. “I have no problem with the survey as a whole, a lot of the questions went just too far.”

One parent, a pediatrician, said he supported the survey which was “right up his alley.”

“That’s stuff that we talk about as a family and not addressing it is not an option. This is crucial data for epidemiologists to know about our youth. If you don’t talk about it, and we hope the kids aren’t doing it, that doesn’t seem like a good strategy,” said Brian Digiovanni.

However, as another parent noted during the committee meeting, if these conversations should be taking place within families or at the doctor’s office — not at school.

“Could you imagine not knowing what oral sex was and going on the bus and Googling it and what you would get?” the parent asked. “This should be done in the pediatric office, that’s where it’ll be answered honestly.”

All too often, school districts are taking on roles traditionally reserved for parents — this is why it is all the more important to show up at committee and school board meetings to let them know when they’ve overstepped their bounds!

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