School surveys ask children very personal questions

TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.

November 12, 2002

TRACKSIDE last week discussed mission creep, the process by which an organization starts off to accomplish one set of goals, and, having gotten its foot in the door, expands the goals, thereby ensuring its existence, its budget, and its dominion - the original mission may even cease to exist. Last week, in a digression from a discussion of the Kansas Communities That Care Survey, the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center (Greenbush,) was used as an example of mission creep. Greenbush, a non-profit agency, is morphing itself into a business that is in direct competition with private industry, able to undercut prices because of its non-profit status and the taxpayer support it receives from "member" school districts. But enough, let us get back to the survey.

What is the Kansas Communities That Care Survey? The Greenbush web site stated that "The survey measures Risk and Protective Factors in the district as well as the environment the students live in. It is a great tool for school improvement tracking, school planning, and grant applications." (Ah, yes, The Clerks love it - taxpayers’ children are the guinea pigs providing the data and taxpayers pay The Clerks to find more reasons to extract more tax dollars.) The survey has been administered each year for the past five years to 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students. Over 86% of Kansas school districts have participated in the survey at least once. Funding for the survey, free of charge (well, sort of) to school districts, is provided by Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services, a division of the state Social and Rehabilitation Services Department. The SRS gave $270,000 to Greenbush for the project for the period October 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002.

Are you curious about the questions being asked of your children? You should be. Your children are being asked: "Do you feel very close to your mother?" "Do you share your thoughts with your father?" "On how many occasions (if any) have you used cocaine or crack in your lifetime?" "I think sometimes it is okay to cheat at school. [offered four boxes to check - NO!, no, yes, YES!]" "How old were you when you first carried a handgun? [never has is an offered box to check.]" And so it goes for eight pages, for 127 questions.

Participation in the survey is supposed to be voluntary. Parents have the right to veto their children being subjected to it, and the child can say no thank you on his own, but parents have to take positive action to opt out their children. As my local district was handy, a principal asked said that notification letters were sent out to parents when the survey was last conducted; another said no letters were sent out. (So much for parental involvement.) When asked, the district superintendent said that letters will be sent out at all schools in the district before the survey was next conducted. Still, parents have to take action by responding; no response equates to "it is OK for my child to participate in the survey." (Better would be requiring signed parental approval before a child could participate.) Are those who collect and compile the data able to connect an answer book to a particular student? It would appear not if the school districts comply with the instructions provided by Greenbush, but the mere fact that education time is taken to ask intrusive questions that are no business of a school is enough to damn the entire survey.

Now you ask, just what does a district do with the data obtained? The question was posed to the local superintendent. He said that the district does little with the data, but the mere fact that the district participates in the survey makes the district eligible for a Safe and Drug Free Schools Community grant. How much? The grant for the current year is $4,787 and is used to provide a summer activities program at two elementary schools to keep kids off the street. Thus is illustrated another stratagem for the state to gain control. Dangle dollars to obtain a desired result. The lure of gold is hard to resist.

The Communities That Care Survey is an invasion of privacy. It provides data that Clerks and Nannies can use to "prove" the need for more government involvement in peoples’ lives. The survey should not be tolerated by parents. While the survey booklets, the compilation of the data, and postage is free to the district, the academic time and district resources it takes to administer it should not be wasted on an activity which is not directly mission oriented and serves the welfare state. It is an example of mission creep.

See you Trackside.


(The survey questionnaire is available at


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