Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Va., failed to notify parents of their ability to opt their children out of an invasive survey before giving the survey to at least 180 students, asking students as young as 12 about their sexual activity, drug use, and sex “identities.”
The survey, which is billed as being “about health behavior,” asks students as young as 12 years old personal questions like “Some people describe themselves as transgender when their sex at birth does not match the way they think or feel about their gender. Are you transgender?”
Students are then given the options to answer “No,” “Yes,” “I am not sure if I am transgender,” or to say they don’t know what the question is asking.
According to state rules, schools are required to notify parents at least 30 days before administering the survey to students, giving parents ample time to choose to opt out, but Loudoun Valley High failed to do so.
“These voluntary surveys were distributed without families being sent an opt-out form and Loudoun Valley High School regrets this error,” Assistant Principal Bill Gulgert sent in an email apology after parents expressed outrage. Gulgert also noted the information that had been collected improperly would not be used.
In addition to questions asking students if they consider themselves transgender, another question asked each student if he or she was heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, not sure (which the survey described as “questioning”), confused by the question, or “describe my sexual identity some other way.”
Other questions asked if teens had ever had sexual contact, and if it had been with males, females, or “females and males.” Students were asked specifically whether they had ever had intercourse, how old they were the first time, and how many sexual partners they’d had.
“The last time you had sexual intercourse, what one method did you or your partner use to prevent pregnancy?” asked another survey question, with detailed options including birth control pills, condoms, an IUD, a shot or birth control ring, or withdrawal.
Students were asked whether they had been victims of rape or sexual assault, from other students, from romantic partners, or from family members. Another question wanted to know if students had been tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
Questions asked if students have driven under the influence of alcohol or been in a car with someone who was, how often students gambled, and how often students had carried a gun in the last year — on and off school property. They also questioned students about their mental health, how often they self-harmed, and whether they had “seriously considered” or attempted suicide in the past year.
Other questions wondered how old students were when they first tried cigarettes, alcohol, and how often they use each now. Students were also asked how often they used marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, or ecstasy in the past month.
The survey also probed students about their parents and home life, including whether students had ever lived with anyone with depression or mental illness, alcohol or drug problems, or if a student’s parents had ever been taken to prison.
These questions were accompanied by vague queries such as “During your life, how often has a parent or other adult in your home sworn at you, insulted you, or put you down?” — a question that could easily be answered in the affirmative by a teenager feuding with parents over something trivial.
A middle school version of the survey also asks the “are you transgender?” question, as well as questions about students’ suicidal behavior, drug use, or sexual assault.
Surveys like this one have been promulgated in the aftermath of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, signed into law by President Obama. ESSA required the evaluation of schools in part based on “non-academic factors,” leading to “school climate” surveys that often gather personal information about students’ lives.
The 2021 Virginia Youth Survey administered at Loudoun Valley is a statewide survey put out by Virginia’s Department of Health and the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, with “support” from the Virginia Department of Education. It’s sponsored by a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Assistant Principal Gulgert did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment Wednesday.