Youth Risk Survey is putting your children at risk
By Dean Kalahar
The Federal Government, through The Center for Disease Control (CDC), is once again conducting its national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). States, through their county school systems, administer the test to children in grades 6, 8, 9 and 11 to collect data on youth behaviors. “The purpose of the YRBS is to monitor priority health-risk behaviors that contribute substantially to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth, which contribute to patterns in adulthood.” Stop and think to yourself: have you ever heard of this survey taking place in your child’s school? Do you know what is in the survey?
The compassionate intentions of the program are potentially useful, but for all purposes, the program is abusive. The reasons for concern are twofold. First, the survey is not a generic data collection event for caring school officials. It is a highly provocative and morally questionable set of questions being asked to our most vulnerable population, children as young as 11 years old. You can judge for yourself with a sample of the following questions from this year’s 99 question YRBS.
-Have you ever had sexual intercourse?
-Have you ever had oral sex?
-How old were you when you had sexual intercourse for the first time?
-Have you ever been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when you did not want to?
-During your life, with how many people have you had sexual intercourse?
-During the past 3 months, with how many people did you have sexual intercourse?
-The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?
-How many times have you been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant?
-During the past 12 months, did you make a plan about how you would attempt suicide?
-During the past 12 months, how many times did you actually attempt suicide?
Secondly, the subject matter alerts any sensible adult that highly specific administration guidelines must occur to protect parental rights and be in compliance with the Family Privacy Protection Act (FPPA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Although there are clear rules to follow when conducting surveys with minors, so as not to violate laws in regards to parental consent and confidentiality, these safeguards to family and children’s rights are not being taken.
In fact, the CDC website states that “Local parental permission procedures are followed prior to administration of a YRBS.” In addition, the CDC states “Parental permission was obtained for students to participate in the survey. Student participation was voluntary, and responses were anonymous.” Regrettably, these statements are pure fantasy. The fact is, close monitoring of parental permission is not happening and the test is being administered with little regard to children’s rights. Because of this negligence, the situation has to be exposed.
It is easy to witness or experience the abuses first hand working as a public school teacher. Problems include ignoring signed parental non-consent forms, not alerting parents of the survey by letter, not giving instructions to students taking the survey, and legally questionable opt-out procedures offered to parents. Additionally, there is no oversight or consideration of the ramifications the questioning has to a student’s emotional or psychological stability after the survey.
Processes are clear on how to obtain parental approval through active or passive parental consent laws. Again, according to the CDC, “Most states employ passive parental consent when administering such surveys. Under this system, written notice is sent out to parents informing them of the upcoming survey and the types of questions it will ask, and then permission to participate is assumed unless parents or students indicate otherwise. With passive parental consent all students and parents can decline to participate at any point in the process.”
Again, the CDC can tell the public whatever it wants, but it is up to the individual school districts, schools, and classroom teachers to follow the specific rules through “written instructions” to effectively administer the survey and provide safeguards against surveying a student whose parents had not given their consent. Vigilance, ethics, professional, and legal requirements obligates anyone involved in administering the survey to protect individual freedom. Inexcusably, bureaucratic apathy all but negates this from happening.
Even with all of these specific rules and regulations, laws are being ignored? As such, targeted legislation needs to be passed addressing the lack of seriousness in following the law. Stiff penalties in the form of fines or jail time should be legislated to create the incentives to once and for all end the blatant disregard for the role families have in raising children as parents see fit.
Potential legal actions against the misadministration of the YRBS are justified. They would be an expensive and embarrassing wake up call to survey advocates. Parents, government officials and school leaders must now take action on this issue. The YRBS should be stopped until such time as all parties can be assured the laws that govern the administration of surveys to children will be done with the utmost of respect for the process and protection of individual rights.
Any response less than a full scale investigation will signal only one conclusion; the government wants to know if your child has “had sexual intercourse,” and they are not interested in such pesky things as laws, ethics, mothers or fathers.