Virginia Parents Raise Concerns Over ‘Extremely Invasive’ Survey That Promotes ‘Early Sexualization’

'It's normalizing really dark things'
By Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Reporter
Patricia Tolson is an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter who has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo! U.S. News and The Tampa Free Press. Her focus is covering political events and developments throughout the southeastern United States, which may have an impact on the nation as a whole.
November 23, 2021 Updated: November 26, 2021

Virginia parents are raising concerns over what they feel is an “extremely invasive” survey being given to school students that promotes “early sexualization.”

According to its website, the Virginia Department of Health is conducting the survey “in collaboration with the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, with support from the Department of Education.” It is funded “through a five-year grant provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

“The Department of Health will be gathering information about the health risk behaviors of youth. The Virginia Youth Survey (VYS) has been developed to monitor priority health risk behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults within the Commonwealth of Virginia. The survey is administered every odd year in randomly selected Virginia public schools.”

Michael Leaser, director of external relations and community relations for The Family Foundation and resident of Fairfax County, Virginia, is concerned about the overreach of the survey.

“For us, one of the core areas is parental rights,” Leaser told The Epoch Times. “From our perspective, parents bear the ultimate primary responsibility for the children’s education. We, as parents, permit public schools to educate our children, but it’s ultimately our responsibility. Frankly, for some of these questions we’re concerned about them even being asked. We think they’re a little too personal.”

The middle school children survey (pdf) asks questions many parents feel are invasive and/or subjective that could be easily misinterpreted by young children.

Screenshot of question from 2021 VA Middle School Youth Survey regarding whether or not they identify as transgender.
Screenshot of question from 2021 Virgina Middle School Youth Survey regarding whether or not they identify as transgender. (Patricia Tolson/The Epoch Times)

One question Leaser cited asked the child if their parents ever “threatened, bullied you or teased” them. “Those words have different implications,” Leaser said. He is also opposed to one question asking an eighth-grader if they’re transgender. “Some kids may not even quite understand that kind of question so I’m concerned as a parent,” Leaser said.

Cheryl Onderchain, a Loudoun County resident, chair for the Loudoun County chapter of Moms For Liberty, and parent of twin daughters in the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) system, is also troubled by the survey.

“Asking them about their gender, their feelings, and sexual questions like did you drink before having sex the last time? I mean, thanks for giving our teenagers ideas! There’s questions about drugs, drug use, probably drugs my kids don’t even know what they are. Questions about their weight. I mean, way to give teenage girls a complex about their weight. Crazy,” Onderchain told The Epoch Times.

Screenshot of questions about the child's weight from the 2021 Virginia Middle School Youth Survey.
Screenshot of questions about the child’s weight from the 2021 Virginia Middle School Youth Survey. (Patricia Tolson/The Epoch Times)

“I don’t like it at all. I think it’s extremely invasive,” said Onderchain, adding that she has taken the step to opt her daughters out of taking the survey.

“I did a little research on it and it looks like the Virginia Department of Health got a five-year grant from the Center for Disease Control (CDC),” Onderchain noted, “and based on the CDC’s behavior over the last 20 months I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them.”

“I don’t know what the ulterior motives are,” Onderchain explained. “I don’t know why my children would be asked these types of questions. More importantly, what are they doing with this data? I don’t trust that this is an anonymous survey.”

Onderchain said students are told not to put their names on the survey “and there is no spot” provided for a child to write their name, but it is her understanding “the students are asked to put their student ID on it, which makes it identifiable information.”

“I worry about what they doing with the data I already don’t trust the schools with protecting student data when they’re using Chrome Books,” Onderchaid said. “I work in technology. Google isn’t a technology company. They’re a data company. So every day I wonder what kind of information they’re selling about my students. Are they creating a profile for them? Are they selling this data to God knows who, including Google? I just think it’s extremely invasive.”

Invasive Questioning

Questions on the high school survey (pdf) are more invasive and graphic, asking teen-aged children numerous questions about suicide, forced sex, drugs, and alcohol use by them and their parents. There are also innocuous questions like, do they eat green salads or drink fruit juice, followed by questions about their sexual preferences, how many sexual partners they’ve had, and did they drink alcohol or do drugs before sex.

Screenshot of questions asking teen aged children how many sexual partners they've had from the 2021 Virginia High School Survey.
Screenshot of questions asking teen-aged children how many sexual partners they’ve had from the 2021 Virginia High School Survey. (Patricia Tolson/The Epoch Times)

“Why is that VDH’s business? I don’t need the Virginia Department of Health asking my kids such granular questions about sex and putting ideas in their head, asking them if they’ve ever had sex. Did they drink before having sex. How many sexual partners have they had. Have they ever had oral sex. I mean that’s appalling. My daughters are 15 years old. They’re still pretty innocent. I mean I don’t understand what this has to do with their schooling. I just don’t understand why these types of invasive questions would be asked and how it’s appropriate to administer a survey like this at school,” Onderchain added.

Cassandra, a Fairfax County mom who spoke to The Epoch Times under the condition of anonymity, was shocked by the specificity of the questions on the survey.

“It was shocking how specific they were,” she said, “like, ‘how many times in the last 30 days have you done cocaine? In the last year how many times have you done cocaine? In the last week how many times have you done cocaine?’ It was like beating the kids over the head with it and normalizing really odd behaviors you would not expect a really young child to be engaged in.”

Screenshot of questions asking teen aged children how many times someone they dated tried to force sex or hurt them during sex from the 2021 High School Youth Survey.
Screenshot of questions asking teen-aged children how many times someone they dated tried to force sex or hurt them during sex from the 2021 High School Youth Survey. (Patricia Tolson/The Epoch Times)

She was also disturbed by questions asking if the child had sex with “someone who hurts you” or “forces” them to have sex against their will.  “Its incredibly pushy and forcing a thought process on them that’s scary.”

A Nation of Illiterates

According to a recent study by the International Literacy Association, almost two-thirds of America’s fourth-graders read below grade level, with the same number graduating high school still reading below grade level. This puts America’s children far behind those in countries like Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, and the UK.

Asked if she believes America’s illiteracy problem is a side effect of the education system’s transition from teaching to social engineering, Onderchain said “it absolutely is.”

“And I think that a lot of these initiatives that have the word ‘equity’ in the tile is to cover up for the massive failure of public education in this country,” Onerchain added, “and that is why these teachers unions are so politicizing what children are taught because they’re covering for their own failures.”

Maria Keffler of Arlington, Virginia, who has already pulled her children from the public school system, has also opted her children out of the survey.

Keffler, an author, speaker, and teacher with a background in educational psychology, is also a co-founder of Advocates Protecting Children, Partners for Ethical Care, and the Arlington Parent Coalition.

Maria Keffler, co-founder of Advocates Protecting Children, Partners for Ethical Care, and the Arlington Parent Coalition.
Maria Keffler, co-founder of Advocates Protecting Children, Partners for Ethical Care, and the Arlington Parent Coalition. (Courtesy of Maria Keffler)

“I opted out of the Virginia Youth Health Survey because so many of the questions that were on it regarding sexual behavior are not age-appropriate, especially for middle school kids but even high school kids,” Keffler told The Epoch Times. “Some of the questions on this survey, I found, were presumptive of sexual activity. The questions assume the kids are sexually active and I find that problematic, especially in the younger grades. A Barna Group survey found that sex education given in today’s public schools actually encourages them to become sexually active.”

Teens Speak Out

The study, Teens Speak Out (pdf), commissioned by Ascend and conducted by the Barna Group and released in 2016, asked 18 and 19-year-olds nearing graduation or had already graduated high school a series of questions about sex and their thoughts regarding sex education classes.

Among the key findings, nearly 30 percent of the teens surveyed said sex education classes made them feel like “sexual activity is an expectation.” This placed sex education in fifth place as a motivator to engage in sex, behind movies (60 percent), peers (55 percent), social or news media (51 percent), and music (40 percent).

“For students who received Sexual Risk Reduction (SRR) or ‘comprehensive sex’ education, said the pressure to have sex was even more intense, with nearly 40 percent saying that sex seemed expected,” Ascend President and CEO Mary Anne Mosack told The Epoch Times.

Mary Anne Mosack, President/CEO, Ascend, Nov. 2021
Mary Anne Mosack, president and CEO of Ascend, in November 2021. (Courtesy of Mary Anne Mosack)

“What’s interesting is we found a lot of things really surprising in the survey, like why kids are waiting for sex,” said Mosack.

According to the study, the primary reason why some kids wait to have sex is they “are waiting for a committed relationship or because it’s not part of their personal values,” Mosack said. “We found that very interesting. The bottom two were ‘getting pregnant’ or ‘getting an STD,’ almost counter-intuitive to what we think right now.”

In addition, the study revealed that 21 percent of the male students said condom demonstrations made them feel more pressured to have sex.

“That’s why when we share information on contraception, we share that contraception reduces the risk,” Mosack said. “It doesn’t eliminate the risk. Many students still operate under that myth that, ‘if I use a condom I’ll be safe.’ The only way to be 100 percent free of the physical and emotional fallout from early sexual activity is to not engage in it.”

Schools Should Teach—Not Indoctrinate

All of the parents who spoke to The Epoch Times on this matter reflected upon a time when schools taught subject matter such as reading, writing, math, and science. Now they see schools shifting more toward social engineering, usurping parental rights and pushing Critical Race Theory under the new monikers of Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Responsive Education.

“This is a problem that has been getting more and more egregious through the decades taking more and more license in the culture that seems to embolden,” Mosack said. She described that some of the survey questions being asked now seek to identify trends and identify risk behaviors, but at the same time they are inappropriately introducing topics like oral and anal sex, transgenderism and gender fluidity, and the questions are asked in such a way that actually normalizes the behavior, especially for younger students.

According to Mosack, questions about sexual activity to a child create an expectation and can cause more confusion than clarity in the mind of a 10, 11, or 12-year-old.

“Themes and topics they have never even thought about in regards to their own sexuality can become very invasive,” Mosack explained, “so I think what parents are mainly objecting to is the type of questions that are actually inappropriate, and they’re inappropriate not only because of age but because they are suggesting normalization.”

According to Leaser, parents “outsource” the basics of a child’s education to schools, like reading, writing, and arithmetic. But when it comes to “core questions about sexuality and relationships,” Leaser believes these sensitive matters are should be reserved to a parent’s guidance and parents should “keep tabs on that and not outsource that to schools.

“We’re concerned that public schools are going into areas that are a parent’s purview,” Leaser explained. “As a parent, we have the ultimate responsibility for our kid’s education, but we permit the schools, we allow the schools to educate our children in certain areas.”

Onderchain added that “the last 20 months have been extremely eye-opening for me and for a lot of parents across the U.S. because when schools were shut down, parents had a chance to actually see what’s actually going on in their school system. We don’t like what we saw. I don’t like the politics being injected into my children’s education. The should go to school to learn math, science history how to write so they’re prepared for college. I’m so tired of our curriculum moving away from academic excellence and into indoctrination and talking about their feelings. They go to school to learn. At least they used to.”

Michelle, a Fairfax County mother who spoke to The Epoch Times under the condition of anonymity, said she is particularly upset by the fact schools make parents take the extra step of opting out of questionable practices, such as these invasive and inappropriate surveys.

“My view on this is you should actually be able to opt-in, rather than saying ‘your child is getting this unless you opt-out.’ This has nothing to do with academics. My children attend public schools for academics, to get a diploma so they can go onto college. That’s it. They don’t go to get indoctrinated or to take tests or surveys being used by other companies for who knows what.”

‘Early Sexualization’

“These surveys are always done under the guise of education,” Mosack said. “But many times, education regarding this extremely sensitive and important topic for young people is done in such a way it’s geared more toward early sexualization than imparting information. Parents are really up in arms because they are introducing too much, too soon, and in a way that sexualizes and normalizes sex for young kids.”

“I’m glad my daughter didn’t take it,” Cassandra confessed. “She has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and one of her obsessions is worrying about being harmed or raped. So if she had taken that [survey] it really would have put her in a bad place and it would have triggered her obsessions and worries. I’m the most liberal person in the world and I can’t believe I’m saying ‘NO! They should not be asking these kids these questions!’ It’s normalizing really dark things to them, drugs, harm … yeah.”

Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson is an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter who has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo! U.S. News and The Tampa Free Press. Her focus is covering political events and developments throughout the southeastern United States, which may have an impact on the nation as a whole.