ROY, Utah – A Utah high school teacher is on leave amid an investigation into a student quiz about sex, drugs and other risky behaviors that enraged parents.
“I was in shock,” said Heather Danks Miller, mother of a 16-year-old in teacher Candance Thurgood’s “Adult Roes and Financial Literacy” class at Roy High School. “I couldn’t believe something like this was handed out to students.”
The “Know Thyself” quiz, which consisted of 30 questions from a 1981 Dear Abby column, asked students to answer questions like “Have you (your girl) ever had an abortion?” and “Even though you are straight would you go kinky to see what its (sic) like?” The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Other questions included:
“Do you smoke regular cigarettes?”
“Do you smoke pot?”
“Have you ever slipped Angel dust (anything) into someone’s drink?”
“Have you ever had sex without using a contraceptive?”
“Have you ever passed out from drinking?”
“Ever stolen money to buy drugs?”
The survey tasked students with tallying points associated with the questions to come up with a total score, which is then used in a score chart to rate students on a spectrum from “A nerd – just where you should be at your age” to “hopeless and condemned.”
“It’s just bizarre,” Danks Miller said. “I told my daughter not to turn it in.”
“When she read me the questions and the rating system,” she said, “I just got mad and called the school.”
Students, however, were expected to complete the assignment for a grade, according to the Tribune.
Weber School District spokesman Lane Finlay told the Desert News officials were unaware of the quiz until parents began complaining on Friday. He said the assignment was handed out to juniors in the Adult Roles class as part of a lesson on risky behavior in dating.
The quiz was not approved as part of the course curriculum, Finlay said, though the Tribune notes it was hosted on the district’s web portal until Monday afternoon.
Parent Heather Miller said she believes the questions were “disturbing and invasive,” and she didn’t think it’s right that her daughter was expected to put her name on it and turn it in for a grade, the News reports.
“I was just appalled,” Miller said. “You’re asking people to basically incriminate themselves and turn this paper into you.”
“How many lives have been affected by telling teenagers they’re hopelessly condemned or a nerd?” she questioned.
Apparently, probably a lot.
Danks Miller said she met with the veteran teacher and principal, and Thurgood said she’s used the quiz for years.
Claudia Geist, a University of Utah sociology professor, told the Tribune the types of questions in the survey are more likely to stigmatize than educate students about risky behaviors.
“It’s outrageous and creates a hostile environment for the students,” she said. “Kids will find ways to be cruel to each other; they don’t need teachers to help them.”
Weber School District officials issued a prepared statement about the ordeal on Monday that said Thurgood “has been placed on administrative leave while the situation is being investigated,” the Tribune reports.
“(We) want to extend our sincere apology to the students who were asked to complete this questionnaire, as well as their parents and we assure you this survey will not be used in the future,” the statement read.
“While the course itself contains instruction in human sexuality to which parents consented, the survey that was distributed to students solicited information about sexually explicit activities and delinquent behavior, and parental consent was not obtained for this particular set of questions, as is required by state and federal law,” it read.