The Rapid City Area Schools have announced that they will postpone the middle school student surveys that measure childrens’ attitudes, beliefs, behavior and disposition. Dr. Mitchell, RCAS Superintendent has admitted that they are looking for a legal way to give this survey without getting specific written parental consent from each student’s parent/guardian. The Sioux Falls School District has also postponed giving this survey to the district’s middle school students. Given that both districts have only postponed the survey, I think it is fair to say that the Sioux Falls School District is also working with the district’s lawyer. In Sioux Falls, they would have to get written parental consent from 15,000 middle school parents.
The move to postpone these types of surveys is in response to a new South Dakota law requiring written parental consent before a student can participate in these types of surveys. (Link 1) You can see some of the questions asked on these surveys here. Dr. Mitchell has said these surveys are about the data to qualify for federal and state grants. (Link 2)
I have a few thoughts regarding the article from the Rapid City Journal.
- Just because a survey has been given for years, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or that we should continue the “tradition”.
- Do we really need a survey to tell us that more juniors than freshmen drive drunk?
- Why would Dr. Mitchell request that Chiesman Center President, Robb Timm, not talk to the media on the matter? It would seem a double standard. He wants our children to talk.
- Could it be that if written parental consent has to be obtained, opting in vs. opting out, more parents would want to see the survey and might object?
From the Rapid City Journal :
After complaints, School District postpones behavioral surveys
In the wake of privacy concerns and other complaints raised by parents and residents, Rapid City Area Schools is temporarily shelving biennial behavioral surveys it gives to middle and high school students.
The four surveys, developed by the Rapid City-based Chiesman Center for Democracy, question students anonymously. One of the surveys focuses on risky behavior, including sex, drugs and alcohol.
Superintendent Tim Mitchell said those topics have been included on every behavioral questionnaire the district has done with the Chiesman Center since 1999. Similar surveys have been given to Rapid City school students since 1989.
But Mitchell halted the surveys after state Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, and school parents and other residents objected on Friday, asserting the surveys could conflict with a new South Dakota state law.
Senate Bill 63, which Jensen co-sponsored and took effect in July, states that students are not required to take school surveys questioning them on a variety of topics including political affiliations, mental-health history, religious beliefs, illegal activities or sexual attitudes or experiences.
Mitchell said parents and students already had the right to decline to participate. Traditionally, the survey has provided raw data used for grant applications and information for counselors, principals and policy-makers on where to pinpoint services for pregnancy prevention and substance-abuse counseling.
Continue reading at Rapid City Journal