Here is the testimony of Ann Marie Banfield to the Bedford School Board on the question of invasive surveys of students, their purpose and whether or not administrators misled parents.
A few weeks ago I requested a copy of a survey that was going to be given to the students in Bedford. The survey sample questions sent to me included 58 questions but did not include questions such as:
1. Have you ever had sex before?
2. Are you afraid of being hit at home?
3. What is your gender? Female, Male, Gay, Lesbian or I don’t know
4. Have you ever sniffed glue to get high?
5. Do you feel safe around adults other than your family?
6. Do you or your partner use anything for protection during sex?
7. Are your parents divorced?
8. Have you ever been left home alone?
Superintendent Mayes wrote that the purpose of the survey was:
The information from those students who participate is being used by our district to determine the degree to which we meet our District’s Mission statement, specifically, “…. to develop a community of learner who are intellectually curious, resourceful, and respectful of self and others.”
Reading through the Mission Statement and based on this objective, and then looking at these questions, it appears as if the survey seeks to judge parents and students vs. how well the school district is doing.
Is there some reason the personnel who will use this information, could not come up with a survey that first saved the taxpayers’ money and second asked questions based on the quality of education the students are receiving via the mission statement?
My next concern has to do with the nature of the personal questions. First there is no such thing as anonymous as any techie will tell you that with 3 data points, a person can be identified.
How will this information be used? Will it be used to justify spending more money on programs if there is a problem identified by the behavior of students and their parents? IF so, how do you account for the false answers that are given on these surveys by young children who have admitted to me that students do not take these seriously and fill in false information?
The sample survey did not include all of the questions and left about 100 questions off. Those questions also seem to be highly controversial giving the impression that the developers do not want parents to know what is being asked of their children. Isn’t that unethical and deceptive?
What about the programs that could follow based on a survey that may not even be accurate in its findings?
Programs like D.A.R.E. have been used for years and after data was collected on the effectiveness, some of those studies showed an increase in alcohol abuse among students who participated in the prevention program. If this survey is to be used to bring in additional programs, who chooses those programs and how do parents trust in them given the history of DARE and now the lack of transparency that’s been shown by the administration on this survey? (DARE information below.)
Several years ago schools in Columbine began teaching kids “death education”. This was a way to reach out to kids on a sensitive topic death and suicide. Students were taken to morgues, asked to write up their obituary and sat around talking about death.
Some kids experienced death in their life and the school wanted to make sure that they were leading the effort to help kids who may be struggling with death in some way.
The TV show 20/20 interviewed students, counselors and teachers about the program and what stood out to everyone was the student who almost took her own life. After taking these classes to help students she became fixated on suicide and reported that one night she almost took her own life. Here is a link to the video/story from 20/20 on DEATH ED.
We all know the tragedy that occurred at Columbine with the two students who open fired and killed their classmates several years ago. What you may not know is that there are former school board members who point directly to the programs like Death Ed that was in the school as being a component in the tragedy.
In my own personal situation, my daughter, who is in college now, sat through an anti-bullying video when she was in 4th grade. She came home to tell me that she was bothered by the video that showed kids hitting and beating each other up. She then went on to say that no one treats kids like that in her class so she couldn’t figure out why the Guidance Counselor showed the video. What was most alarming was what she said next. She said that some of the boys in her class began high fiving each other and saying…”what a great idea.”
We had a trained professional who just taught the boys how to be bully to their classmates.
The suggestive questions can teach children risky and harmful behavior. Who will take responsibility in this district if that information contributes to a child engaging in that behavior based on what they read?
Programs have shown that they can be even more harmful if not deadly.
Who will take responsibility for that?
I would suggest that the School Board state exactly what the mission of this school is and how they will accomplish that goal. Then I would suggest developing a policy on surveys and questionnaires that support fully informing parents what their children will be asked. Transparency must be the priority.
Maybe you should also require the teachers to inform the students about their 5th Amendment rights; the right not to incriminate themselves.
Exactly what will the school do with the results? How much will this cost the taxpayers? This is information that can and should be posted on the web site for all Bedford residents to see. They are the ones paying for this.
Finally, parental consent must be included. Not passive consent that allows the school to distribute a survey simply because a permission slip was sent home but maybe didn’t make it back to the school.
Gathering information on a student’s behavior along with their families should be explained by the administration. Pointing to a Mission Statement that implies nothing similar to what was included on the survey is not enough of a reason to ask these personal questions. Residents need to know why the school district wants to gather personal information on students’ and their families.
FCDA: Family Council on Drug Awareness
Text of FCDA testimony at the May 1995 Oakland hearing on DARE
By FCDA Director Chris Conrad
I am here today to speak against the continued subsidization of the DARE program and to urge that the program be removed from the local school system. With all due respect to those who support the program, it seems clear this is an emotional response that is often tainted by a financial self-interest in continuing the program. Numerous unbiased evaluations have found that DARE is effective at only one thing: raising money for DARE. Perhaps the most thorough and circumspect such review is the one known as the Triangle Report, which compiled and considered numerous other reports. The overall conclusion was that DARE is ineffective.
After 12 years in operation, there is no question that the program is a failure. In 1994, the federal Drug Czar, Education Secretary, and Secretary of Health and Human Services held a joint press conference to announce NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) statistics showing an increase in drug use among the nations’ students. I hold DARE partially to blame.
Even the name DARE is a provocative double-entendre that implies a challenge to experiment with drugs.
From its ill-conceived name to its false premise to its corrupted application, the DARE curriculum is fatally flawed. Repeated surveys and studies have proven that the program is a waste of money at best, and counter-productive at worst. Police in the classroom is not education, it is political indoctrination. And whereas this country is founded on the premise that all people are created equal, DARE divides society into two classes: those who are “drug free” and those who are bad people. That attitude is inherently un-American.
Over the past six years, I have talked with hundreds of students and parents about DARE. Their comments are not flattering. Most students find that DARE is boring or an excuse to get out of other schoolwork. Many say it actually makes them more curious about drugs. Peer pressure and assertiveness are powerful motivational forcess that cannot be controlled once they are instilled in a child. Lacking proper training, these officers also lack credibility. Students gather together after class to talk about drugs and criticize the DARE information. The curriculum makes no distinction between use and abuse, or between soft and hard drugs. Kids are told that if they smoke pot they will go to hard drugs, which can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Kids are not taught to discriminate between drugs; they are taught to discriminate against certain people. There are documented cases of DARE officers using the program to teach children to spy on their own family and report parents and siblings to the police. This is not always the case, of course. But DARE is essentially a self-promotion tool of the police department to dispense paraphernalia like tee shirts, soft drinks, buttons, bumper stickers, and so on.
This approach is not cost effective. It is not effective, at all. It is, in reality, a waste of scarce resources.
Two questions arise: First, is the goal to reduce drug use among students? If so, then DARE should be eliminated and replaced with a program that has some credibility among young people. That means a health program based on honest information that seeks to break down stereotypes and reduce destructive behavior.
The second question: Is the goal to have a police-student public relations program? Half of high school seniors have tried marijuana. One out of four young black men will be arrested at some point, many for drug offenses. Having a police officer come to class to tell lies about drugs and urge kids to have their friends and family arrested may not be the best public relations tool. More likely, it is one of the worst, because it leads to later distrust and disrespect. If we want to improve police community relations, keep the streets safe from violent crime and bring cops and kids together to play basketball or to talk about issues in an informal basis &emdash; but don’t waste school time and money on the program.
We are all concerned about the health and well being of our children. For that reason, I urge you to do something really good for them. Take away the DARE money and use it for more teachers and better teaching material. Better schools will give them the tools to succeed in life, and that has been proven the most effective deterrent to drug abuse.
The City of Oakland has ended its support of the DARE program and is developing in its place an multi-disciplinary approach that involves the schools, the recreation department, and parents in an effort to delay first use of ilegal drugs, which includes alcohol and tobacco for young people.
Early use often leads to later abuse. The most common problem is that of unsupervised time in which kids are more likely to get into trouble, with drugs or otherwise. Use of athletic and recreation department facilities under adult supervision will help mitigate that.
Use of mentors and peer role models should emphasize positive, responsible behavior rather than recovery.
Reincorporating drug education into the general health curriculum will reduce the undue emphasis on the role of drugs in peoples’ lives and remove the artificial glamor attached to drugs.
Another problem is the harmful influence of television, which reinforces negative role models and promotes violence. Violent behavior is a gateway to criminal misconduct. Children need to learn to suspend their belief of television and should be taught conflict resolution and aggression reduction as basic life skills.
As this grand experiment in Oakland continues, it will provide important information to be used by other communities such as this in protecting our young people from the consequences of both the drug war and hard drugs, as well as the criminal underground market in drugs which it has generated.