Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Surveying attitudes of students questioned

Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — A 156-question survey to be given to Middletown/Monroe students in grades 6-12 next week has been postponed to give parents more time to learn about its content and use.

        The survey, developed by the Minneapolis Search Institute, questions students on their attitudes about lifestyle issues, including how they relate to adults, discipline, faith, studies and other topics, said the Rev. Gene Leiter, co-founder of Middletown/Monroe Adolescent Leaders Achieve — Malachi — the nonprofit organization that is sponsoring the survey.

        Some parents, however, want more information. A community meeting with Malachi is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today at Creekview Elementary School, 301 Loretta Drive.

        “Our PTO called the meeting. They showed us the survey and we didn't like some of the questions,” said Juley Lawson, co-president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Creekview.

        “We want to know what the survey will tell them. We're not so much upset with the survey itself but how we found out and the fact that all children will be given it unless their parents return a slip saying they don't want their child to take the survey. Not all the children even brought the letter home.”

        Middletown/Monroe Superintendent Wayne Driscoll said the letters would be mailed to all households with children in grades 6-12. Copies of the survey are available at each school for parents to review. No survey will be given to students whose parents deny permission.

        “There's nothing to be hidden here,” Mr. Driscoll said Tuesday. “We're hearing from our community they have some questions. I don't have any concerns (with the survey) but I understand how people might be concerned and have questions. We'll put it off until we're sure all parents have seen the letter and we have all the questions answered.”

        One question on the survey asks students if they have ever had sexual relations, which some parents don't want asked of sixth-graders, Mrs. Lawson said.

        The Rev. Mr. Leiter said only a few of the questions deal with material some parents might find troublesome. Most focus on which of 40 “assets” teens in the community have.

        National studies by the Search Institute have found that the more assets students have, the less likely they are to be involved with drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sexual activity, or be a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence, the Rev. Mr. Leiter said. Sixth-graders with 20 or more assets are less at risk for trouble. Nationally, for all age groups, most students have 16 or 17 of the 40 assets the questionnaire assesses, the Rev. Mr. Leiter said.

        As teens get older, they tend to lose assets. That's why things like staying involved with school activities, visiting grandparents or other relatives on a regular basis, going to church and other activities are so vital, the Rev. Mr. Leiter said.

        Completed surveys will be sent to the institute, which will report both Middletown's results and national results. That takes 10 to 12 weeks, the Rev. Mr. Leiter said.


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