COLORADO SPRINGS — Families in Colorado Springs School District 11 will now have to opt-in for their children to take the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, but it's a controversial policy change.
The survey is the state's only comprehensive survey on the health and well-being of young people. Most school districts in El Paso County have not participated in this survey in recent years.
Some parents say the questions are inappropriate, while others, including the El Paso County Coroner say the information that's collected could save lives.
“Any survey that is done on my child, needs to be approved through me,” said one D11 parent during public comment at a school board meeting last month.
The opt-in policy that D11 is adopting means that a parent needs to give permission for their child to participate in surveys like the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. Those against it, say the policy change is concerning and, will lead to even less response.
“There can be really negative consequences. Getting this information is more critical than ever, with all of our increase in mental health issues,” said Nicole Johnston, with the Community Health Partnership.
The survey includes more than 100 questions covering areas like sexual behavior, drug and alcohol use, access to guns, bullying, self-harm, and suicide.
“I find these questions to be very insulting and have absolutely nothing to do with how well my child is doing in school,” said one D11 parent.
Last month, Dr. Leon Kelly, the El Paso County Coroner sent a letter to the D11 school board sharing his concerns. He said he’s disappointed because that information is needed to understand what youth are going through and what they need.
The district responded to Dr. Kelly’s letter saying these are questions that intrude on the privacy of students and parents.
D11 parents also expressed their concerns in a school board meeting last month, saying these topics should be discussed between parents and their kids, and not teachers and their students.
“Not doing these surveys actually honors parents' voices and does not disrespect parents,” said one D11 parent.
Johnston said the rise in youth mental health issues needs to be addressed, especially after the difficult few years that students have had.
“Obviously, there's been a pandemic since then, and we don't know all of the details of what our kids are experiencing getting the data from that,” said Johnston.
She said the anonymous survey is given out every other school year in the fall, and the more schools that participate, the more funding the county can get to address needs.
“When you want to look at where you're going to put your resources, funding to address needs of our youth, we need to make evidence-based decision making,” said Johnston.
Dr. Parth Melpakam, the D11 school board president, said he and the superintendent had a meeting with Dr. Kelly to develop a survey that is more focused on student deaths and safety while avoiding questions that are sexual and personal in nature. He added, “More importantly, we talked about using the results of the survey to provide targeted resources and support for our students.”
A spokesperson with D20 said they haven't participated in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, because they give out their own drug and alcohol survey every two years. They also give out character and climate surveys. The spokesperson said students and parents had also expressed concerns about experiencing “survey fatigue.”
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