Middle school abandons survey

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— After complaints from several parents, Steamboat Springs Middle School students will not take a survey about student attitudes and behaviors.

For the past year, the school district's health committee had discussed giving such a survey to middle and high school students, Superintendent Donna Howell said.

Similar surveys have been given to high school students in past years but had never been given to middle school students.

The survey results would have provided information that could have enabled the community to work together to find the best ways to support students, Howell said.

But a number of parents said the decision not to go ahead with the survey is a good one.

Sandra Jones, the parent of a middle school student, said in an e-mail that she thought the survey was an insult and that parents should have been told that some questions would concern sex, drugs and violence.

"Thank goodness parents acted quickly to deter this offensive survey from exposing our sixth- to eighth-graders to more than they need to know," she wrote.

Kelly Wilson, another parent, echoed Jones' sentiment.

"This is a good decision," she said about stopping the survey. "This survey is not appropriate for our children."

A letter sent to parents last week identified the survey by its title, "Search Institute Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors," and also provided basic information about it. The letter emphasized that survey responses would be confidential and gave parents the option of exempting their students from answering survey questions.

The survey is given to many students across the nation. It is intended for children in grades five through 12.

Some parents who received the letter and picked up copies of the survey were surprised to find several questions about sex, drugs and suicide. Those questions, some parents said, were inappropriate for middle schoolers, especially sixth-graders.

Some of the survey's questions include:

Have you ever had sexual intercourse ("gone all the way," "made love")?

Have you ever tried to kill yourself?

Other questions ask students about their self-esteem and have them rank how strongly they agree or disagree with statements about their dedication to school and their relationship with their parents.

Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop said he thinks a number of the survey's questions need to be posed to students. Answers to some of those questions can help schools better meet the needs of their students, he said.

But because of complaints from parents, Bishop said he thinks it isn't the appropriate time to move forward with the survey.

Howell said no complaints have been received from parents of high school students and that the district plans to administer the survey to high schoolers.


-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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