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Thoughts on student survey

| March 16, 2022 7:50 AM

I read the following comment to the School District 6 Board during the Public Participation period on March 14, 2022. That time is offered at every monthly Board meeting to allow parents and citizens to address the Board, with questions and issues of concern for the students, the schools and the community:

Three of my concerns about the risks of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in our schools are: 1) is class time allocated for these competencies pilfering valuable academic time? 2) How does this curriculum fare on a risk/reward analysis; does SEL provide a net benefit or a net loss in the academic and emotional lives of students? 3) Does SEL instruction interfere with the rights of parents to guide the moral and ethical development of their children?

Tonight I wish to ask these same questions about a survey that is administered by the Montana Office of Public Instruction and offered to our 7th through 12th grade students here in School District 6. That survey is the biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The purported aim of this survey appears to be to assist Montana schools in identifying trends in student behaviors including drug use, dietary habits, physical activity, violence, suicide and sexual acts. Some of the questions on the survey are shockingly explicit and invasive.

Is this survey a proper use of academic time? Do students benefit when they are exposed to these invasive questions about their private lives? What role do the parents play in explaining and administering these surveys? In addition, how are these surveys presented to the students? Is there any followup to counsel students or to explain to parents why these sometimes blunt questions are even being asked?

An article written by Patricia Tolson of the Epoch Times on November 23, 2021 about the administration of similar surveys in Virginia schools, lists numerous concerns from parents and advocacy organizations about surveys of this nature. Quotes from that article include:

“The questions assume kids are sexually active and I find that problematic, especially in the younger grades.”

“There are also innocuous questions like, do they (the students) eat green salads or drink fruit juice, followed by questions about their sexual preferences, how many sexual partners they’ve had, and did they drink alcohol or do drugs before sex.”

“I don’t understand what this has to do with their schooling.”

“It’s incredibly pushy and forcing a thought process on them that’s scary.”

Reporter Tolson comments; “Now they (parents) see schools shifting more towards social engineering, usurping parental rights and pushing Critical Race Theory under the new monikers of Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Responsible Education.

As I once again respectively ask the Board for an open discussion of the SD6 Social and Emotional Learning curriculum; I now also ask that there be a dialogue by the Board before this survey is once again authorized for SD6 students in 2023.

Joe O’Rourke

Columbia Falls