Most of us were taught various levels of sexual education during our public schooling, whether that be in elementary, middle, and/or high school.
In most cases, these lessons and or classes prepare students for adult life.
First, we are taught the fundamental differences in male and female anatomy. Then, years later, we learn about hormones and how those may affect our bodies. And finally, usually, in late middle school or high, the practices of safe sex and how to avoid risky sexual behaviors come into play.
It’s a common, if not always comfortable, subject that is required in most public and private schools.
And usually, parents are heavily encouraged to take part in that education.
I remember as a youngster being sent home with a paper about when lessons like there were to be taught and what kind of topics were to be discussed. This is partly a warning for parents, as curious minds tend to have many questions after any form of sex education. This is also a way to get parents involved in their child’s education, letting them decide whether they would like their child to participate or give feedback on the lessons to be learned.
As a parent now, I am thoroughly grateful for this opportunity, as my child’s education, particularly on matters such as these, are of great importance.
However, it seems that not all families are given this courtesy, nor are their children being taught the usual sex-ed curriculum.
Take the Brookefield Central High School in Wisconsin, for instance.
Here, as is typical, tenth-grade students in health class are given basic sex education lessons. But in addition to the usual stuff on anatomy, reproduction, and safe sex, was a survey in which students were asked about their own sexual experiences and activity. If that wasn’t bad enough, the students’ results were shown to the entire class through the digital platform Poll Everywhere afterward in the form of a bar chart.
The survey asked students to respond to statements like, “I have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs when having sexual intercourse,” and “I’ve had sexual intercourse with 4 or more people.” Question on oral and anal sex, as well as sex without protection, were also included.
Now, to be clear, participation was optional. Should the student choose not to take the survey, there was no punishment. However, they did have to sit through the class presentation on it anyway.
But in either case, the parents of these students were got given any notification about the survey, what it entailed, or even that it existed. Instead, they and their children were suddenly bombarded with extremely personal and revealing questions.
To say that quite a few parents weren’t happy about the surprise survey is a bit of an understatement, with many showing up for the latest school board meeting to discuss their concerns.
One mother very adamantly said, that “This should not be asked of our tenth-grade children or any children underage. I asked the school board this, ‘How would you like it if I asked you these questions? How would you feel?’”
She added that “Those questions have no place in high school. This questionnaire should be illegal, (in) my personal opinion. They are asking for sexual information from a minor.”
And she’s not exactly wrong.
The principal of the high school, Brett Gruetzmacher, was quick to apologize both to students and parents and insist that nothing like it would happen again.
He noted that he and the district had nothing but respect for “the primary role that the family plays in developing values, attitudes and behavior. Unfortunately, in this instance, these expectations were not followed. No student-specific information was recorded during this survey and the survey… will not be used again. I am sorry and disappointed that this happened and will take the necessary steps to ensure that this does not happen again.”
And while the apology was appreciated, for some, it felt rather hollow after their students’ recent experience and knowing that they had little control over what was being taught to their child at school.
We can only hope that as similar instances occur in the future, parents will continue to stand up and put schools and districts in their place, as these few did.
Without open communication between educators and parents, education, no matter how good, will fail our children.