Parents in at least one Maryland county are raising concerns about a survey that asks middle-schoolers about their sexual history and drug use.
According to NBC Washington, the Maryland “Youth Tobacco and Risk Behavior Survey” contains questions like “Have you ever used heroin (also called smack, junk, or China White)?” and “With how many people have you ever had sexual intercourse?”
One mother told NBC Washington that those questions struck her has questions you wouldn’t ask an 11 year old.
Other questions that may be way too much for middle schoolers, but are included in the survey nonetheless, include:
* How old were you when you had sexual intercourse for the first time?
* The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?
* Have you ever sniffed glue, breathed the contents of spray cans, or inhaled any paints or sprays to get high?
* During the past 30 days, how many times did you use marijuana? and
* Have you ever seriously thought about killing yourself?
Another Frederick County parent – obviously quite peeved about the questions being asked of his 12 year old daughter – went so far as to write a Baltimore Sun opinion piece referring to the survey as ‘inappropriate and offensive probing’ and calling “major foul” on the Maryland State Board of Education for allowing it.
According to the state, Maryland began participating in the Youth Risk and Behavior Survey in 2005 when the Maryland General Assembly mandated that the survey be conducted every two years.
Questions on sexual behavior, sexual violence and sexual identity were included for the first time in 2013.
Several districts nationwide, like Baltimore City Public Schools, for example, receive funding from the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health to conduct Risk Behavior Surveys and report the findings to the federal government.
According to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who publishes the results of the survey, data is collected from high school students on the following “sexual behavior measures” and “sexual violence measures”:
* Ever had sexual intercourse;
* Had sexual intercourse during past three months;
* Drank alcohol or used drugs before sexual intercourse;
* Had sexual intercourse with four or more people during lifetime;
* Age of first sexual intercourse;
* Used a condom during last sexual encounter;
* Used birth control pills, IUD or implant, shot or birth control ring during last sexual encounter;
* Ever physically forced to have sexual intercourse when you did not want to; and
* How many times during past year did someone you were dating force you to do sexual things that you did not want to do.
Data is also collected from high-schoolers on sexual identity. Specifically, students are asked to identify themselves as either “heterosexual (straight),” “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “not sure.”
When taking the survey, students are asked not to include their name and are told if they are not comfortable with a question, they can leave it blank. However, many would likely agree with Frederick County parent, David Bittle, who writes, “it is not the responsibility of the Maryland State Board of Education to delve into such matters, especially where such young and impressionable minds are concerned.”