ANDOVER, Mass. – Parents of Andover High School students are steaming after officials allowed university researchers to distribute a 15-page survey about sex and sex abuse during lunch time.
Andover High School students received the survey with graphic questions about their sex lives on Monday in the cafeteria, where researchers with the University of New Hampshire had set up a table and patrolled the lunch room to ensure students filled out the “voluntary” questionnaire, the Eagle Tribune reports.
The effort was part of a national program started by Vice President Joe Biden called “Bringing in the Bystander,” which is designed to motivate youth to stop sexual assaults, WCVB reports.
“It was a little unnerving as a parent to hear your child talk about his survey when they came home from school,” school committee member Ted Teichert said at a committee meeting the same night.
The first part of the survey is designed to keep answers anonymous while also giving researchers a way to track responses over time. It asks students to provide the first letter of their first name, first letter of a caregiver’s first name, first letter of father’s first name, and other similar questions.
Then it goes into questions on demographics, such as “What do you feel is your gender?” and provides multiple choice answers. It asks about age, grades, race, sexual attraction, whether students receive free or reduced lunch, their relationship status, age they first had sex, and whether students regularly ask for verbal consent during “sexual stuff.”
The survey asked students to define “relationship abuse,” and “sexual assault,” and about the media’s role in defining those terms. It also asked teens to rate – from disagree strongly to agree strongly – statements like “Guys should respond to dates’ or girlfriends’ challenges to authority by insulting them or putting them down” and “If a guy spends money on a date, the girl should have sex with him in return.”
The survey asked students to reveal what sexual acts or sexual harassment they’ve had done to them, what they’ve done to others, and pages upon pages of similar sexual questions.
“I was immediately alarmed the very second I saw it,” parent Krystal Solimine told Fox 25.
“When I saw the survey – I was like, woah! As a school committee member, I want to be aware of the survey before it goes out,” Teichert said.
District officials told the news site they believe the survey was appropriate for high school students, and do not believe the answers can be traced back to individual students or subpoenaed in a criminal case.
Parents signed a consent form allowing their children to take part in the study, but parents like Solimine didn’t realize the sexually graphic nature of the questions.
“When you sign a consent form, you expect your children will be protected,” she said.
The school committee’s student liaison, Andover senior Tim Chen, said some students were lured into taking the survey with cookies and other baked goods put out by UNH representatives.
“A lot of students weren’t sure what the survey was for or if they were supposed to take it, so a lot of students just took it.”
The district’s physical education program advisor, Brian McNally explained at the committee meeting that UNH staff distributed an initial round of surveys and talked to health classes about relationships and sex last year, and the form parents signed last year gave permission for two years of surveys, the Tribune reports.
Parent Bob Pokress, a school committee candidate, said he believes that despite the survey’s precautions to keep respondents anonymous, the questionnaires “absolutely puts students’ Fifth Amendment rights at risk.”
“This survey should have been thoroughly vetted by the superintendent before it was administered to the kids,” Pokress told the Tribune. “It was not asking just for opinions, it was asking specifically for certain types of behaviors that could be used against the student should the information ever get into the wrong hands.”