First, I would like to address the comment in this article, “getting parents’ permission defeats the purpose of this particular survey”. The article goes on to say that the survey was “anonymous and optional”. I personally don’t think that the fact that a survey that is anonymous and optional means that it doesn’t require parental permission, especially because the California Educational Code requires parent permission for questioning students about sex.
Also, the article states, “Having a record of which thousand students participated and requiring written consent from parents removes the survey’s ability to be voluntary and may have some students answer dishonestly, knowing that their name is on the record”. I don’t understand why having parental permission would remove a student’s anonymity in the survey. A survey that is given with a parent’s consent can still be anonymous. And regardless of whether requiring parental permission would make the results less accurate, the law states that for such a survey parental permission is required. Going against the law in order to acquire accurate results is not a good enough excuse.
Another portion of the article reads, “We by no means support the continuation of the ‘erosion of parent’s rights,’ but keeping students from participating in the survey, fundamentally, is a violation of their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech”. I may be mistaken on this, but isn’t it true that, while in school, a student does not necessarily have First Amendment rights? Students have very few freedoms compared to the rest of the outside world. Teachers and other staff are allowed to search a student’s belongings without reason, even during class, for example. Students can be suspended for inappropriate postings on facebook. Schools therefore have power over the First Amendment, meaning that students can argue that school’s rules are violating their rights, but they do not necessarily have legal recourse.
The article also commented that “the parents filing the complaint overreacted about the potentially awkward subject”. I think that this statement was very disrespectful to the parents that filed the complaint. They were simply worried that their child was taking a survey containing this “potentially awkward subject” without their consent. Although many high school students dislike the fact, parents have authority over their children. If they feel the survey is inappropriate in some way for their child, then they have every right to not allow their child to participate. Also, the comment about the “potentially awkward subject” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why can a parent not share their discomfort with the subject if the school actually published the results in its newspaper?
Julie Wilson said that she thought students might infer from the survey’s results, “Am I the only one not having sex?” The article responded to this statement saying that the results showed students were more likely to ask, “Am I the only one having sex?” I don’t think that students reading the results of the survey would really learn anything useful at all. Although it is less than the norm, 38% shows students that more than one of every three people they see on campus is involved in sexual activity. That turns out to be a very large number of students. It seems to me that this would communicate that sex is the norm. And the questions asked in the survey about what music gets students “in the mood” for sex will only promote sexual activity. The information gained from the survey is not something that is extremely valuable. It shows that about 2/3 of the student population at VHS is not involved in sexual activity, whereas the other 1/3 is. I don’t think this would really stimulate a good conversation between parents and teens about sex. It more just seems like a survey to show students what their peers view as acceptable, in this case, about sexual activity. Also, if it is “obviously” true that some students are engaged in sexual activity, what was the point of the survey? Personally, I think seeing a teenage student who is either pregnant or diagnosed with oral cancer from to the HPV virus is a better reminder that sexual abstinence is smart-not a survey with percentages of who has sex and who doesn’t.
I think that it is a very good thing to analyze student behavior and tendencies, especially with how quickly trends will move in high school. However, I think there are better ways of doing this than conducting a survey without parent permission and publishing its results in a school newspaper. The student population doesn’t necessarily benefit from seeing these results.