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UPDATE: DPI Official Explains Why The State Is Collecting Children's Sensitive Data

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

The statement directly results from Education First Alliance's reporting on the invasive survey that the DPI is giving to students this fall.

By: Sloan Rachmuth

Friday, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released a statement regarding the state-wide Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) that appeared to change its policy regarding school participation.

“Although schools are randomly selected, with consideration that, collectively, reflect the demographics of the state schools have the choice not to participate in the survey,” stated a press release from Karen Farley, Executive Director of the Center for Safer Schools at DPI.

Our Thursday report detailed the plans of the DPI to conduct surveys in randomly selected public and charter middle and high schools. Teachers, parents, and members of the state legislature contacted us to share their outrage after reading some of the proposed questions. For instance:

Middle school students as young as 11 will be asked:

  • if they have done heroin or crack cocaine

  • if they have had sex

  • if they discuss sex with parents

  • how fast they could get and be ready to fire a loaded gun without parental consent

  • how many hours parents leave them home alone on school days

High students are asked:

  • the age they first had sex

  • how many sexual partners they have had

  • if they have gay sex

As Ms. Farley also acknowledged in her release, these questions (and others like them) understandably shock the consciences of parents and the public alike. She said that schools should contact parents as soon as possible about the survey, giving them the chance to opt their child out of taking the survey. Farley emphasized the survey is "completely voluntary" and that students can opt out.

The survey is administered bi-annually and is aimed at measuring mental health risks and identifying suicide risks, said Farley. Teen suicide prevention is a worthy goal, but how will at-risk students receive the help they need if these surveys are anonymous?

Surveys are not always effective, according to experts. From The US Preventative Task Force:

"There is insufficient evidence to conclude that screening adolescents, adults, and older adults in primary care adequately identifies patients at risk for suicide who would not otherwise be identified based on an existing mental health disorder, emotional distress, or previous suicide attempt."

"Evidence on the benefits of screening adolescents, adults, and older adults for suicide risk in primary care is inadequate."

The Journal of General Psychology published a recent report that identified a valid suicide screening survey, but it is only used for "outpatient specialty clinics." Even if some surveys are valid, schools appear to be an unsuitable setting for suicide risk screening.

To read DPI's full statement, click on the file below.

DPI Survey Letter
Download • 582KB

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