BOURBON, Mo. — Some parents at a middle school is Missouri have expressed objection after a survey from the state Department of Mental Health asked students about their so-called “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
The Missouri Student Survey, also known as the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Survey, is sent to schools every other year to understand the issues that students face, from bullying to drug use to suicide. Children grades 6-12 complete the survey, and are informed that they may leave any questions blank that make them feel uncomfortable.
This year, the survey also asked students about whether they consider themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or “other,” and if they identify as transgender. It stated that the questions were being asked to “better understand the health and healthcare needs of people with different sexual orientations.”
“Do you consider yourself to be transgender? This is when your gender identity (how you feel) is different than how your body is (your anatomy),” one question read in part, and also allowed the answer of “prefer not to respond.”
The questions upset some parents, who spoke with local television station KMOV about the matter.
“It’s inappropriate subject matter for sixth graders to be answering questions on,” said parent Shane Burns.
“To me, anybody asking my 11-year-old daughter if she likes girls or boys and if she [identifies as] transgender, … if it’s not coming from me [as their parent], that’s just perverted,” also remarked parent Courtney West.
Following the controversy, Brian Witt, the principal of Bourbon High School and Middle School, sent a letter to parents to advise that he did not like the questions either, and that he has requested that the Department of Mental Health not ask such questions of his students in the future.
“School districts are not provided with the survey questions prior to giving the survey to students,” he outlined. “This year, there were two questions on sexuality included in the survey. When I was made aware of the questions, I contacted the Department of Mental Health and asked for those questions to be removed from the survey.”
Witt said that the Department agreed to remove the questions from future surveys submitted to his schools.
He also explained that parents will receive prior notice of the survey in the future, and that administrators will “be diligent in a request to review any future survey content from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.”