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State Board turns to another touchy topic

The State Board of Education, fresh off action on testing waivers and opting out of tests, on Friday is expected to discuss the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, a biennial health study of students that has come under increasing fire from some parent groups.

Board members brought up the issue late in their Feb. 19 meeting, when member Deb Scheffel noted, “a lot of parents are upset by it. … Is there anything we can do to alert parents?”

Some survey questions are very specific about drug use, sexual activity, and other risky behaviors.

Member Steve Durham said, “I hate to be a prude about this, but this [the survey] isn’t age appropriate.”

Durham asked if the attorney general’s office would look into whether the board could require school districts to standardize how parents are notified about the survey. Some board members would prefer that parents have to opt in to the survey.

Member Pam Mazanec said opting out is “a practice that is really annoying to parents.”

The board is expecting to hear back from the attorney general’s office at its meeting Friday, when it also will be briefed on education bills in the legislature.

Durham told Chalkbeat Colorado Thursday that he didn’t know if he would propose a motion on this issue until after he’d seen the attorney general’s memo.

The health survey conducted periodically by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Department of Human Services and Department of Education has come up frequently in recent committee hearings on parent rights and student data privacy measures being considered in the legislature.

Parents have complained the survey is intrusive, asks inappropriate questions, and that that they sometimes weren’t properly notified that the survey was being given.

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey is given every other year to students in randomly selected schools. More than 220 schools and 40,000 youth took the 2013 survey. Learn more here, and read the 99 questions on a past survey here.

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