Published as submitted to Girard at Large on April 6, 2014 by Audra Schwoerer:April 3, 2014

Schwoerer:  School overreach violates kids.

Schwoerer: School overreach violates kids.

My 7th grader arrived home this week to inform me about a survey that was given at school during homeroom this past Monday, March 31st.   He was upset about some of the questions asked on the survey.  My son recalls the survey to be about 5 pages in length containing about 158 questions.  It was presented in a booklet form, stapled together along the left side with a title cover on the front “Search Institute, Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes & Behavior”.  My son said they were told that filling out the questionnaire was optional and that the booklets would be destroyed by fire (specifically) after their review by the “Data Recognition Corporation”.  He decided that many of the questions were not appropriate to ask him, so decided not to provide any answers.   Instead, he took notes, even writing down the number series 5C3037-12985-5432.  I have no idea what that means, but his diligence in writing it down gave me both pause and a smile.  (Why can’t he apply such detail to his homework?!)  However, this week, I did experience one of those parental moments when the fruit of many years of labor were starkly revealed:    instilling values at home, teaching what is right and appropriate and wrong and not appropriate provided him the ability to discern and the courage to follow through with it.   Isn’t this a parent’s greatest hope?

As my son began to fill me in, I couldn’t help but wonder what non-academic 158 questions could be asked of a 7th grader (much less a 5th or 6th grader)?   I quickly found out.  A sample of the survey can be seen on the Search Institute website and include questions like “What is your race?, “What grade are you in?” and other rather benign inquires.  However, the questions my son says were on the survey go much further.  Questions like:

What is your gender?

  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Lesbian
  4. I don’t know

Have you had sex before?

Have you ever sniffed glue?

Are your parents divorced?

Have you ever been left home alone?

What race are you?

Do you or your partner use anything for protection during sex?

The questions were uncomfortable for my child, who knew these were not appropriate to ask.  While my child chose not to answer the questions, most other kids did, but provided false answers and treated it as a joke.  There are many questions that beg to be addressed here but primarily I would like to know to what gain such a survey provides at the expense of the innocence of our children and why were parents not informed of the content of the survey beforehand that authorizes crossing this rightful parental boundary of our children?  Yes, there are boundaries to other people’s children that the schools perhaps have forgotten.

Our children were violated.  There is no other way to state it.  Someone is responsible and we deserve to know who that someone is.   The person who believes that presenting suggestive content like this to a 5th, 6th or 7th grader clearly lacks the understanding and judgment to be a decision maker regarding the care of our children while at school.  I believe most parents appreciate “care” to mean not just their children’s physical bodies but also their minds.  There should be no less upset than if your child were injected with a vaccine or given a medication without your approval.  There is no “un-injecting”.  Likewise, there is no removing the content of clearly inappropriate ideas from our children’s minds.  Does not the medical personnel double check a medication and dosage against orders and authorization before administering it to a patient?  Doubly so.  Why then, was a survey containing, at minimum, questionable content, that most certainly exceeds the boundaries of the school’s authority, placed in front of my 7th grader without my explicit consent?  Someone reviewed and approved the content and process of this survey and parents deserve to know which administrator possesses this scope of judgment that oversees their child 30 hours and more per week.  Someone is accountable.

Maybe your child isn’t familiar with glue sniffing.  Now, they not only know what it is but you have to worry about whether they’ll seek to satisfy their curiosity.  I had my son recall as many of the questions on the survey as he could possibly remember, but 158 questions is much to take in.   If anything about this process disturbs you, I ask you to have a discussion with your child about their experience with the survey and talk to them about any future material they might encounter ever while not in your presence.  It is vital.

The respect for parental boundaries has been increasingly breached for many years now.  However, it is our responsibility as parents to oversee what goes on at our local schools.  When you leave that responsibility to others, you relinquish control over what is taught to your children.  I beg all Bedford parents to take the time to attend school board meetings and monitor as well as provide input for the running of our schools.  Yes, it is another activity to add to your calendar.  We are all so busy with so many other things, but I suggest to you that there is no other greater importance than what is placed in the minds of our children now that shapes who they become later as adults.  I also hope that you choose to actively retain this constitutional right before it is taken from you, as Governor Hassan and the New Hampshire Education Commissioner (appointed by the Governor), Virginia Barry,  have clearly stated they want to take this right from you.

At the end of the day, I suppose we should all be glad our kids weren’t asked if they had ever played the “choking game”.  Or were they?  We don’t really know that do we?  Because, if they were, it could be the last curious thought they ever have.

Audra Schwoerer

11 Spring Hill Road