A survey called the Prevention Needs Assessment has divided parents of public school students in Ludlow, MA. Intended to gather information on risk behaviors of 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, the survey includes questions asking whether students have ever experienced oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse.1,2 One parent of a middle school student framed his disapproval in these terms: “Sixth and eighth graders are going to read these words and come home and ask what they mean.”3
Interim district superintendent Donna Hogan has stressed that parents can opt their child out of the questionnaire, but opponents were not satisfied with this provision. As a result, the school district bowed to opponents by removing the sexual behavior questions from the 6th grade survey.
Illustrating the controversy, a ‘community comment’ section on the local WGGB-Fox 6 television website teemed with arguments for and against asking youth about their sexual experiences. One local resident defended the original survey by saying, “Only when you have baseline data, can you build an effective program…Ludlow has a drug problem. Ludlow is also #4 in the state of MA as far as cases of teenage Chlamydia. Should we bury our heads in the sand?”4
1 Ryan Trowbridge, “ABC40 Follow Up - School District Removes Controversial Questions,” WGGB.com ABC40 Springfield, 16 February 2012, accessed 1 March 2012, <http://www.wggb.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Survey1.pdf>.
3 Tricia Taskey, “Ludlow School Survey Controversy,” WGGB.com ABC40 Springfield, 15 February 2012, accessed 1 March 2012, <http://www.wggb.com/2012/02/15/ludlow-school-survey-controversy/>.
4 Ray Hershel, “Controversial Student Survey Amended in Ludlow,”WGGB.com ABC40 Springfield, 16 February 2012, accessed 1 March 2012, <http://www.wggb.com/2012/02/16/controversial-student-survey-amended-in-ludlow/>.