Soon the Maryland State Board of Education will be firing off its annual Youth Tobacco and Risk Behavior Survey to sixth, seventh and eighth grade middle school students.
The name of this survey, however, is disingenuous — better to call it, "Youth Tobacco, Sex, Drugs and Other Unseemly Questions Survey."
Only in the progressive minds of state and federal board of education government bureaucrats — and those of state and federal politicians — does it make sense to ask my 12-year-old daughter state sanctioned questions, like: "How old were you when you had sexual intercourse for the first time?" and, "With how many people have you ever had sexual intercourse?" and, "The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?"
Slightly less contemptible, yet no less offensive, the probing goes on: "During the past 30 days, on how many days did you have at least one drink of alcohol?" and on, "Have you ever used heroin (also called smack, junk, or China White)?" and on, "Have you ever sniffed glue, breathed the contents of spray cans, or inhaled any paints or sprays to get high?" and on, "During the past 30 days, how many times did you use marijuana?"
I mean, come on — really? On what authority does the state of Maryland act when they question our middle school children, still babies all of them, about such outrageous and distasteful subject matter?
What's worse, this questionnaire, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website, is of the "opt-out," rather than the "opt-in," type. That is, unless you specifically opt out your children, they will by default be opted-in and will thus be expected to take part in this egregious sampling of government overreach.
The county public school systems have a fiduciary duty to teach, prepare and protect our children. And it is precisely on these matters, but especially the matter of protection, that I have a quarrel. The Maryland State Board of Education bureaucrats are probing our children with euphemistically named surveys that contain inappropriate and disturbing questions that fall entirely outside their charge.
It is not the responsibility of the Maryland State Board of Education to delve into such matters, especially where such young and impressionable minds are concerned. Besides, and in all likelihood, normal 11 to 13 year olds have not had sex (apart from rare and unthinkable instances where sexual assault has occurred), downed alcohol, sniffed glue, smoked cigarettes or "taken prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription."
To subject everyday middle school students to this very troubling inquisition, weighed down with oodles and oodles of inappropriate themes, demonstrates professional ineptitude found only in elected official and civil-servant circles. Furthermore, it is a disservice to the 99.9 percent of students who, thankfully, needn't worry or wrestle with such mature subject matter.
Although I've been notified that our middle school principals are, "simply complying with Maryland State BOE requirements," I would nevertheless appeal to them to do all they can to prevent this survey, in its current form anyway, from ever reaching the light of the classroom.
Likewise, I'm told our local board of education here in Frederick County, where I live, has tried to interdict where this survey is concerned. For whatever reason, I am sorry to say, they failed. Though all this does is raise the question: What is the point exactly of local boards of education if they're impotent to effect change at the local level?
Doubtful as it is that the average parent of a middle school student would ever want their child subjected to this line of questioning by anyone, much less the child's school, there are those do-gooders at the Maryland State BOE who are nonetheless hell-bent on insisting upon it. For that reason alone, and at the very least, it should be an opt-in, rather than an opt-out, survey of our children's assumed and assorted illegal sexual, drug, and alcohol habits.
As the parent of a student who attends a Maryland public middle school, I hoist the tut-tutting finger of disapproval and call foul. Major foul! And I urge you to send your child's principal — and then your local board of education and state representatives — your unequivocal opt-out from the erroneously named "Youth Tobacco and Risk Behavior Survey."
If less time were spent on such bureaucratic government red herrings, more time could be devoted to the chief objectives thought to be the foundation of the public school system, which simply stated are: reading, writing and arithmetic. Remember those?
David Bittle is a Middletown parent. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.