Middle Schoolers’ Survey Includes Questions about Sexual Activity
These are new questions on the 2014 Maryland Youth Tobacco and Risk Behavior Survey. The survey is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene(DHMH) in collaboration with the Maryland State Department of Education(MSDE). It an integral part of Maryland’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan, the State Health Improvement Process (SHIP), the Community Health Improvement Processes (CHIP) occurring in many counties, and the Managing for Results (MFR) process.
The survey for middle school-age students has 83 questions having to do with school life, eating habits, alcohol and tobacco usage. But it is the four questions numbered 52 to 55 that have to do with sex that are new to the survey. The questions ask students how old there were when they first had sex, how many partners they have had and if they used a condom.
Not every school participates in the survey every year, according to MCPS Spokesman Dana Tofig. Parents in those schools that did participate this year were sent a letter explaining the survey and some of the new questions in it.
Below is what that letter said:
Information Regarding the Maryland Youth Tobacco and Risk Behavior Survey
The purpose of this message is to inform you that your child’s class has been selected to participate in the Maryland Youth Tobacco and Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Maryland State Department of Education and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Information about this survey was sent to you at the beginning of the school year on your child’s Student Emergency Information form where you had an opportunity to “opt your child out” of the survey. The survey includes questions about risk and safety behaviors such as use of helmets and seat belts, depression and mental health; use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs; nutrition and physical activity; and sexual behavior. School and class participation is mandatory, but student participation is voluntary. We encourage you to review the survey items. After reviewing the survey, if you do not wish to have your child participate, please complete the form to “opt your child out.” If you have already indicated your child should not participate in the survey, there is nothing else you need to do. For parents that have a registered email with the school, a copy of the survey, the opt-out form, and a link to the survey site for additional information will follow. If you do not have an email on file, please contact your child’s school for the forms.
Tofig said the state requires the school system administer the survey.
School Board Member Rebecca Smondrowski told MyMCMedia Thursday she wants to be sure parents realize the contents of the survey.
“The new material that is included in the state survey is very mature, explicit and personal… for me the most important thing is making sure that parents are aware of and have looked at the content in the survey and that they understand that they are able to opt their children out of taking it if they would like,” Smondrowski said.
Students in the following middle schools already took or are scheduled to take the survey: Benjamin Banneker in Burtonsville; Gaithersburg; John T. Baker in Damascus; Eastern in Silver Spring; Francis Scott Key in Silver Spring; Kingsview in Germantown, Rosa Parks in Olney, Thomas W. Pyle in Bethesda; Herbert Hoover in Rockville; Robert Frost in Rockville; Cabin John in Potomac, William H. Farquhar; and Montgomery Village. Parents could have opted out of the survey by filling out a form.
According to Christopher Garrett, spokesperson for Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, ten of 18 states administering the survey this year added questions on sex, alcohol and drugs because data show children of those corresponding ages often are active in those areas.
Of the 53,785 Maryland high school students who completed the full Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2013, 22.9 percent of ninth-graders reported they had sexual intercourse already. Twelve percent of all high school youth surveyed last year reported having sexual intercourse with more than four people in their lifetime and nearly 7 percent said they had sex before they turned 13, according to Garrett.