A Fairfax County Public Schools system survey will ask children as young as 13 years old to anonymously answer questions about their sex lives, drug and alcohol consumption, and intimate details of their family life.
The school system administers the survey to students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades each fall, and a separate survey is administered to sixth grade students that does not contain questions about sexuality or gender. Students are scheduled to take the 2021 survey in November.
Both surveys caution students not to include their name and note that students do not need to answer any questions they are not comfortable with.
“The whole survey is dark and twisted, but frankly, I’m not surprised,” Ethics and Public Policy scholar Mary Rice Hasson told The Daily Signal. “Parents need to say ‘no’ to the survey. Better yet, they need to get their kids out of the public schools now, before it’s too late.”
Questions on Sexuality, Ethnicity
The 2021 Fairfax County Youth Survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th Grade Students almost immediately launches into questions about gender, asking students, “Some people describe themselves as transgender when their sex at birth does not match the way they think or feel about their gender. Are you transgender?”
The typical age of an eighth grader is about 13 years old.
Students may respond, “No, I am not transgender,” “Yes, I am transgender,” “I am not sure if I am transgender,” and “I do not know what this question is asking.”
The survey then asks students what they “consider” themselves to be, offering the options “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic nor Latino.” In the next question, students may choose whether they “consider” themselves to be “American Indian or Alaskan native,” “Asian,” “Black or African-American,” “Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander,” or “White.”
The Fairfax County survey asks students to select everyone who lives in their home (mom, dad, grandfather, grandmother, stepbrother, stepsister, etc.). It also asks students to specify what languages they speak, whether they attend religious services, how much TV they watch, or how many video games they play, and includes standard questions on topics such as how much time they spend on their homework.
The next section digs deeper into students’ “feelings and experiences,” asking detailed questions about domestic abuse, bullying, and sexual assault; whether the student drinks, smokes, or vapes; and whether the student uses weapons or drugs.
‘Have You Ever Had Oral Sex?’
The survey contains a specific section on “sexual behavior” that begins with the question, “Have you ever had sexual intercourse?”
This section includes the questions:
“How old were you when you had sexual intercourse for the first time?”
“During your life, with how many people have you had sexual intercourse?”
“During the past 3 months, with how many people have you had sexual intercourse?”
“Did you drink alcohol or use drugs before you had sexual intercourse the last time?”
“The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?”
“The last time you had sexual intercourse, what one method did you or your partner use to prevent pregnancy?” (This question allows students to choose from the following options: “I have never had sexual intercourse”; “no method was used to prevent pregnancy”; “birth-control pills”; “condoms”; “an IUD … or implant”; “A shot … patch … or birth-control ring”; “withdrawal”; and “not sure.”)
“Have you ever had oral sex?”
Each of these questions allows students to say that they have never had sexual intercourse.
A subsequent section asks students about sexual harassment, sexual rumors on the internet, sexual violence, whether the students would be comfortable reporting sexual harassment, and more.
Parental Opt-Out Option
The school system offers opt-out letters to parents, noting that parents have the right to “preview the survey” and “deny permission for your child to participate.”
“If you do not wish for your child to take part in the survey, please complete the attached form and return it to your child’s school counselor no later than Nov. 15, 2021,” Superintendent of Schools Scott Brabrand wrote in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grade opt-out letters.
The survey is anonymous and online, he stressed to parents, and “no individual information is reported.”
Schools are directed to give parents 30 days’ notice to opt their child out of the survey in a letter, Fairfax County Public Schools Media Relations Manager Julie Moult told The Daily Signal on Monday.
“If a parent forgets to opt out their child, they may call the school any time up until survey administration and opt out their child,” Moult said in an email. “Children may also opt themselves out of the survey. They may do this by telling the teacher they don’t want to participate.”
Moult noted that the survey is available online for parents to review.
Terry Schilling, president of the conservative pro-family think tank the American Principles Project, expressed strong concerns to The Daily Signal about the survey, warning that it is “problematic” to allow the schools to “pry” into children’s lives in this way.
“If an 11-year-old in school says that they are transgender and had their first sexual experience at 11, does anyone notify the parents?” Schilling asked. “Because the vast majority of parents love and support their children and would want to know. Instead, these schools have adopted policies that ban school officials from notifying parents about these matters.”
It is not the business of schools to handle sexual abuse or gender confusion of children. That’s the parents’ job. And if there’s an unsafe situation at home, then a standard policy should be followed.
“It’s a nightmare,” he continued, “and America’s elites think it’s the government’s role to ask this stuff of our kids.”
Parents need to understand that they need to talk to their kids about sex, because there are a lot of strangers who actually want to talk to your kids about sex. Those strangers are exactly who shouldn’t be allowed within 500 feet of a school.
Moult defended the surveys as “proactive” to The Daily Signal.
“It is important to know how our youth view substance use in their lives and in those they interact with in the community,” she said. “We strive to be proactive in our approach as a community to inform students to hopefully avoid substance misuse.”
The past survey results strongly suggest that young people do value their parents’ statements and values when it comes to interactions with substances. The more that parents and community members support healthy life choices, the more positively students view their ability to be healthy when faced with choices about substance use.
‘Fill The Bubble And Move On’
Though the survey is meant for students between 8th and 12th grade, the age options indicate that a child as young as 10 could take the survey, Hasson told The Daily Signal. About a third of the questions are inoffensive, she said, but the rest lead “students down a dark sewer.”
The Ethics and Public Policy scholar particularly took issue with the way in which the survey raises issues that normalize dangerous and illegal behaviors, citing the question on how old students were when they first had sex.
“The answer choices (besides ‘never had sexual intercourse’) include ages 11, 12, 13, and 14—all below the age of consent,” Hasson said. “A child who ticks one of those boxes is nothing like a 17-year-old teen who has sex with his girlfriend.”
“The student who experiences early sexual contact has been victimized, and if an adult was involved, then the child is the victim of a felonious sexual assault,” she explained. “But nothing in the question or the survey itself acknowledges that a student experiencing such early sexual contact has been victimized and should seek help. Instead, the message is that such ‘sexual behavior’ is ‘perfectly normal.’ Fill in the bubble and move on.”
Hasson also voiced concerns with the way in which the survey questions children about their families.
“When it comes to families, the survey’s questions seem to be fishing, sacrificing accuracy for potentially inflammatory statistics,” she said. “For example, the survey’s muddled definition of bullying includes ‘teasing,’ except when it is ‘ordinary teasing’ or teasing ‘in a friendly way.’ But when it asks about bullying and teasing inside the family, it makes no distinction: ‘How many times in the past year has a parent or adult in your household bullied, taunted, ridiculed, or teased you?'”
“How should a student answer that,” she asked. “Does it include dad playfully teasing him about a girlfriend or his new haircut? Does any family banter now count as ridicule? The statistical results for such poorly worded questions will be worthless, except for ginning up a headline about how many kids have abusive parents.”
School System Recently Ditched Explicit Books
Fairfax County Public Schools came under fire just a few weeks ago when parents discovered that two graphic and explicit books were available in school libraries: “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison.
“Gender Queer” is an illustrated memoir that contains illustrations of both masturbation and oral sex, The Associated Press reported. “Lawn Boy” features explicit, pedophilic descriptions of men and children having sex.
Both books were winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, awards for books with special appeal to teenagers, according to the AP. The books have sparked outrage in Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas as parents discover them embedded in school libraries across the country.
Following backlash from parents, one of whom read explicit passages from the books aloud at a school board meeting, Fairfax County Public Schools said it would remove the books.
School board member Karl Frisch appeared to defend the books, the AP reported, tweeting Sept. 23 that “nothing will disrupt our Board’s commitment to LGBTQIA+ students, families, and staff. Nothing.”
Frisch did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Signal.
This post has been updated to include comments from Ethics and Public Policy scholar Mary Rice Hasson.
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