COLORADO SPRINGS — Some parents are raising concerns over a state health survey.
The Healthy Kids Colorado Surveyis the state's only comprehensive survey on the health and well-being of young people. It's an anonymous and voluntary survey given to middle and high schoolers every other year to better understand their health and the factors that help them make healthy choices.
"I don't like it, I don't agree with it. In my opinion, it can cause students who are thinking of suicide to go backyards and increase that thought process more," said Katelyn Wood.
Wood is among the parents concerned with some of the questions on the survey. Her younger sister and kids are in Widefield School District 3 which opted into the survey.
Students are asked questions about sexual activity, sexual consent, drug and alcohol use, suicide, weapons possession, bullying, and other behaviors. District 3 has taken out the questions regarding sexual activity and consent.
"Health-related issues are different than personal-related issues. Whatever personal within that family should stay within that family. Unless the situation was higher such as child abuse, child neglect, and situations like that, but knowing if a kid is having safe sex or is smoking marijuana. Unless it is a school issue as far as they are smoking marijuana in school then it is an issue. What a student does outside of school is a family issue," said Wood. "Especially with middle and high schoolers, if you give them a piece of paper that says are you having sex, have you smoked wee, are you using condoms. Most are going to laugh at it or lie."
"Research shows asking young people on a survey does not influence their health behavior. Most questions on the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey come from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey that is created by the CDC which Colorado has been participating in since 1991. Also, CDPHE leads a collaborative survey instrument refinement process where youth, parents, school administrators, local and state organizations can weigh in on adding questions about emerging health topics. Final decisions are made by a steering committee who rely heavily on this input," said Emily Fine, School and Youth Survey Manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The state health department says the purpose of the survey is to better understand kids' physical, mental, social, and behavioral health.
"Survey results are widely used by schools, districts, local public health agencies, youth organizations, state departments focused on youth health. Some examples of how the results have been used include informing the creation of programming to support student and academic success, provide direction for schools and communities to address health issues, and can really inform parents on relevant health topics to talk with their children about. Additionally, Healthy KidsColorado Survey results have secured program funding for schools, community organizations, local and state agencies,"
Colorado Springs School District 11 opted into the survey.
"We look at this data set every two years that it comes in. We started taking this survey in our own school district in 2017 so we have two prior administrations of this data. We use it to track trends over time so what's happening in our community and with bullying. Bullying is a part of the questions and conversation and we have seen those numbers going down. So what is the programming that we've out in class, how has it impacted students and the outcomes? We also see what kind of programming or gaps exist so we'll take the data sets, review it, look to where we can put some new practices, interventions, or policies into place," said Cory Notestine, Executive Director of Student Success and Wellness.
Notestine says the survey benefits the district in a couple of ways.
"One, because we are one of the largest districts in our community opting in, we now have a regional footprint of what happens with youth outcomes. Prior to District 11 in 2017 starting this process with our schools, El Paso County was left out of the regional conversation of youth and the impacts they're making in the community. That's one benefit, we can see at large what is happening across our region. Another piece is we can look at the data and then use that data to apply for grants that might be able to support our programming," said Notestine.
Parents just wanting a little more information about the survey and its purpose.
"You can't just send a letter home for a parent that says we're going to give your kid a survey about if they smoke weed, have sex, use a condom. Maybe if they had a breakdown letter saying we are giving you this survey because this is why. If I had a letter like that with detailed information saying this is why we're doing this then I could possibly change my opinion," said Wood.
The state health department says there are multiple layers of consent with the survey at the district, school, parent, and student level. They can opt out if they do not want to participate. Anyone interested in learning more about the survey can visit healthykidscolo.org [healthykidscolo.org].