Parent upset after school survey asks 11-year-olds about sexual orientation

LOUISBURG, N.C. (WTVD) -- The mother of a Terrell Lane sixth-grader is upset after a survey given to her son included a question asking about his sexual orientation.

"Why are you asking 11-year olds these questions?" asked Connie Jo Hutchinson.

The program is called Shifting Boundaries, which is funded through a federal grant. In the survey handed out to students, the sixth question asks "What is your sexual orientation?"

It lists 10 possible options: Bisexual, Gay, Fluid, Heterosexual, Lesbian, Pansexual, Queer, Questioning, Prefer not to disclose, and Self-identify.

After hearing murmurs of the content of the survey, Hutchinson said she called the school to see if the question would be included.

She said the school said that was not part of the program, but Hutchinson's son said the question was included.

Hutchinson does not see the educational value in posing the question.

"I think it is a very sensitive subject, and it is given to these children in a very insensitive way. It is not treated as something as personal, and private, and precious. Because it is," Hutchinson explained.

Parents had to opt-in their children to the program, but Hutchinson says the consent form was misleading.

"I'm angry, because ... I expect to be informed, and I don't feel like I gave informed consent," said Hutchinson.

The consent form described Shifting Boundaries as "a dating violence prevention program," with a focus on "awareness of sexual harassment and teen-dating violence."

Hutchinson removed her son from the program and has since met with the principal. She credited the principal for taking her concerns seriously and being proactive in addressing the issue.

She is hopeful the consent form will be clearer moving forward.

"I didn't know that he was going to have to do a survey. I thought they were talking to pre-teens about maybe dating or how to treat each other. These are kids on the cusp of wanting those romantic relationships. And I want to be able to have those conversations with him when he comes home," Hutchinson explained.

Franklin County Schools addressed the survey in a statement:

The Shifting Boundaries curriculum is a statewide program in 13 different school districts across North Carolina that focuses on the prevention of sexual harassment and sexual violence in middle school students. The survey, consent-form, and curriculum were not created by the school system or SafeSpace (the organization that administered the survey). The North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA) was contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the survey to the groups who received the Center for Disease Control (CDC) grant, including SafeSpace.

Franklin County Schools understands the concern of parents surrounding the question and consent form. We immediately took action when this issue was first brought to our attention. The NCCASA agreed to remove any questions involving sexual orientation from the survey across the board. For us locally, we are asking SafeSpace to re-design the consent form so it is more transparent and gives families the opportunity to view the curriculum in advance of providing parental consent. Franklin County Schools always gives guardians the option to opt-in or out of programs that exceed the scope of normal classroom instruction. We will not allow this program to continue in our schools until we have verified that the question on sexual orientation is removed and the consent form is modified.

If you have additional questions about the relationship between the CDC, NCCASA, and SafeSpace, I encourage you to reach out to SafeSpace directly so they can further elaborate on what steps are being taken to address this concern.
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