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Survey with gender identity and sexuality questions for Indiana 4th graders draws concerns

FILE - Classroom (Photo credit: WLOS staff)
FILE - Classroom (Photo credit: WLOS staff)
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A survey asking Indiana students as young as fourth grade about gender identity and sexuality has two school board candidates sounding the alarm over transparency and "normalizing subjective truths."

The survey, titled "Resilience Through Strength," was designed by the Search Institute and given to Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) students earlier this month, according to parents and a school board candidate.

The Search Institute, a nonprofit organization, "studies and works to strengthen youth success in schools, coalitions, youth and family organizations and the faith community."

In a letter sent to parents prior to the survey being given, BCSC said the goal was to obtain an "accurate knowledge of the well-being of our young people" and "gain insight on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other traumas that young people have endured."

Students were given a chance to opt-out of the survey, but the district emphasized that "other than some possible discomfort with some questions," there were "no risks" to participating.

BCSC school board candidate Eric Grow disagrees with the lack of risks, saying during public comment at Monday's board meeting that "to the contrary, there is an argument that the survey, in one small part of a whole, normalizes subjective truths that many in our community believe are in conflict with their objective truth." Grow also raised concerns that the results of the survey may be used to push agendas in the future.

Grow also found fault in the level of transparency from the district, saying parents were not provided a copy of the survey prior to it being distributed. Parents could only come in and view it on a school computer, even after students had already taken it. The district's reasoning was to avoid bias in the survey results.

"I understand the constructive perspective of this survey," said Grow. However, Grow says the issue now is that parents and community members were given "barriers" to "access information they believe is important in raising their children."

A second school board candidate voiced his frustration surrounding the survey on Facebook, saying he sees the board's handling of parents' concerns as "another missed opportunity to regain trust between the community and the school board."

This survey appears to be part of a larger effort by the state of Indiana to study youth development and childhood trauma. In Dec. 2020, Bartholomew County, where BCSC is located, joined an international research team to "advance current work in the area of positive youth development and child well-being."

Also part of the team are the International School Psychology Association (ISPA), the International Institute for Child Rights and Development (IICRD) and the Indiana Department of Education, along with the Search Institute, which provided the survey.

Through the research team, Bartholomew County public school students in fourth through 12th grade are surveyed and then can "anonymously share feedback." Results are then studied to answer the question of "do developmental relationships and developmental assets buffer young people from the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences, thus increasing the chances of better short-and long-term outcomes?"

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The National Desk (TND) has reached out to BCSC for comment, as well as a copy of the survey. This story will be updated if a response is received.

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