The Bedford School Board is currently gathering feedback from parents regarding the survey that was recently given to middle school students. It is important to identify the mistakes that were made, listen to honest feedback and make the necessary corrections.
The first problem with the survey was the lack of transparency. In order for parents to examine the survey, they had to go into the school and could not make copies for their spouse. Administrators should have made it a priority to have parents read this survey and provide written consent prior to administering it to their children.
The survey itself has been criticized by professionals as age inappropriate. I contacted a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who revealed that as as a licensed professional, they do not ask those kinds of invasive questions with their intake materials at his clinic. He referenced the survey as a social-emotional test of psychology and said that several questions asked could cause a teen that has experienced sexual abuse (or guilt from having sex) an adverse and serious emotional reaction.
Should the district engage in psychological surveys that could lead students to possibly act upon risky behavior or cause students to suffer “adverse reactions”? Is this an appropriate use of time and taxpayer money?
Parents described their children as having negative reactions and feeling uncomfortable while answering the questions. Some parents are now angry that their children learned how to participate in risky behavior and yet no one in the district has taken responsibility if a child were to act upon this information. The survey was administered in a way that may have violated Federal Law leaving the district vulnerable to legal action.
While all of this may be a difficult situation to address, the feedback from parents and other professionals can lead schools to make better decisions in the future. They can do this by developing policies that prioritize parental consent and transparency and then look for practices that do not put students at further risk.
There is a need for a clear policy on surveys that focus on transparency, written parental consent, school board review, and educating students on their 5th Amendment rights if they are asked self-incriminating questions.
The school board should end the contractual relationship with The Search Institute based on their lack of support for transparency and inappropriate questions. This is not the first district to face harsh criticism from this survey, parents in Minnesota faced the same problems a few years ago.
Administrators should respect parents and students in Bedford. If they do not, it is up to the School Board to step in and give the Administrators a clear direction. My hope is that we will see this from our School Board as they move forward.
Ann Marie Banfield
Bedford resident and contributor to Girard at Large