Curriculum

Survey’s Sexuality Questions Anger Elementary Parents

By Darcia Harris Bowman — February 06, 2002 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A survey given to a handful of students at a California elementary school has prompted angry protests from parents who learned the poll included several probing questions about sexuality.

In a 54-question “Trauma Symptom List for Children,” four 3rd graders and five 5th graders at the 1,000-student Mesquite Elementary School in Palmdale were asked last month if they were “thinking about having sex,” “touching my private parts too much,” and “thinking about touching other people’s private parts.”

In all, nine of the survey questions asked about sex. Pupils answered the questions with “never,” “sometimes,” “lots of times,” or “almost all of the time.”

Students needed a signed letter of consent from a parent or guardian before they could take the poll. The form sent home described the poll as an effort to “establish a community baseline measure of children’s exposure to early trauma.”

But the permission slip said little about the survey’s content— and nothing about sex.

“This should never happen to any child anywhere,” said Tammany Fields, whose 10-year-old son took the survey. “These were questions that were never in my son’s mind before he took this [survey]. This was a school he trusted; now he feels betrayed.”

Chain of Command?

Whether the student survey was approved by school and district administrators remains a point of contention.

The poll, copyrighted by Psychological Assessment Resources Inc. of Odessa, Fla., was administered by a female employee of the Children’s Bureau of Southern California, a Los Angeles- based child advocacy group. The woman, who was volunteering as a therapist in the district, which is about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, had planned to use the survey results in her graduate work and sent home 400 permission slips, said district spokesman Isaac Barcelona. Only 20 parents gave their consent.

Distribution of consent forms, surveys, or other such materials in a Palmdale school requires written permission from an assistant superintendent of the 21,000-student district—permission Mr. Barcelona said the therapist had not obtained.

“People knew her and were comfortable with her,” he said. “The principal and assistant principal assumed she had gotten permission, which was an erroneous assumption, as it turns out.”

But Ms. Fields, one of eight parents who had complained to the district about the survey as of last week, believes school officials knew more than they are admitting about the purpose and content of the survey.

“I think it was absolute carelessness from the top of the line of command to the school site,” she said.

In response to the complaints, district officials replaced the therapist and plan to ask the school board to consider tighter controls on the distribution of surveys and other materials in Palmdale schools, Mr. Barcelona said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as Survey’s Sexuality Questions Anger Elementary Parents

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum The World Cup as Teachable Moment? How One Teacher Approached It
It's not just a game: Geopolitics are inscribed into the soccer championship, giving teachers an opportunity to host rich discussions.
3 min read
Josh Sargent of the United States controls the ball during the World Cup, group B soccer match between the United States and Wales, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022.
Josh Sargent of the United States controls the ball during the a World Cup match between the United States and Wales in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 21.
Francisco Seco/AP
Curriculum Nearly 300 Books Removed From Schools Under Missouri's 'Sexually Explicit Materials' Law
Missouri's efforts to remove books from public schools—either temporarily or permanently—go farther than most.
5 min read
Banned books are visible at the Central Library, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system, in New York City on Thursday, July 7, 2022. The books are banned in several public schools and libraries in the U.S., but young people can read digital versions from anywhere through the library. The Brooklyn Public Library offers free membership to anyone in the U.S. aged 13 to 21 who wants to check out and read books digitally in response to the nationwide wave of book censorship and restrictions.
Several titles in this display of books in at the Central Library in New York city are on Missouri's banned books list. The N.Y. library allows young people anywhere to read digital versions of the books.
Ted Shaffrey/AP
Curriculum More Teachers Say Their Curriculum Aligns to Standards. But It Still Falls Short
About one in four teachers said they spent $300 or more of their own money on instructional materials last school year.
3 min read
An open book with scattered letters, graphs, math symbols and shapes floating on a dark blue background.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Curriculum Q&A Why Media Literacy Programs Need to Put a Spotlight on 'Stealth Advertising'
As advertising evolves, digital literacy education must change with it.
3 min read
Illustration of numerous computer windows overlapping with creepy eyeballs inside the close, open, and minimize circles within the various window screens.
Daniel Hertzberg for Education Week