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Bedford middle school survey upsets parents who claim inappropriate questions

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 07. 2014 10:38PM

A group of parents who say a survey given to middle school students asked inappropriate questions showed up to confront the Bedford School Board Monday night.

Parents and other concerned residents filled the back of a small conference room at the superintendent’s offices on County Road, waiting for a chance to ask the board about the subject matter included in the “Profiles of Student Life, Attitudes and Behavior” survey given to students last week.

Board members and administrators said the district is still working on responding to a series of right-to-know requests asking for copies of the survey and why the district asked students as young as 11 about their sexual orientation and drug use.

“These are not juniors in high school,” Audra Schwoerer said in an interview before the meeting. She said her seventh-grade son told her about the survey when he came home from Ross A. Lurgio Middle School last week.

“I was livid at some of the questions,” she said.

Schwoerer was the first of four people to address the board during the public comment period. Schwoerer said she and her husband have taught their children not to participate in surveys they don’t believe are directly related to classroom learning. She said the district has been good about offering students a chance to defer and there was not an issue when her 12-year-old refused to take the survey.

 He did bring home detailed notes of questions on the survey, she said.

“It went into very intrusive and inappropriate areas that I feel goes beyond the boundaries of the school,” Schwoerer told the board.

Parents were advised of the survey in a letter dated March 21, which Superintendent Tim Mayes read in response to some of the questions Monday night. The survey itself, given to seventh- and eighth-grade students, has also been available at Lurgio for parents to review during school hours.

Although district officials said student identities were protected, Schwoerer and other parents felt anonymity was much less of an issue than the graphic line of questioning. Schwoerer was particularly upset that the questions went from asking students about sexual activity to the kind of protection they used.

Ann Marie Banfield, an education liaison with Cornerstone Action, the lobbying arm of a conservative advocacy organization, was among those who filed right-to-know requests about the survey.

“The suggestive questions can lead kids to risky and harmful behavior,” Banfield told the board.

She also questioned the need for the survey, which several parents reported hearing the students considered to be a joke and responded to with false answers.

 “I understand this survey has been around for a while. But maybe it’s time to start questioning why,” Banfield said outside the meeting. “What do they want with this information?”

Schwoerer said a 58-question “sample” was provided to parents ahead of time to review and approve, but the survey in fact had “about 157 questions including: What is your gender? a. Male b. Female c. Lesbian d. I don’t know.”

According to school officials, the survey has been conducted at the middle school level every four years for the past 16 years. Monday night, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Assessment Chip McGee said during a break that the survey had included the topics in the past.

The survey is developed by the Search Institute and known as the Developmental Asset Profile, or DAP.

According to the Search Institute website, the survey measures “young peoples’ internal strengths and external supports and their growth in these key areas over time.”

The Minneapolis-based nonprofit is more than 50 years old and describes itself as “a leader and partner for organizations around the world in discovering what kids need to succeed. Our research, resources, and expertise help our partners in organizations, schools, and community coalitions solve critical challenges in the lives of young people.”

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