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Parents: Did You Know LAUSD Asked and Recorded Your 7th-12th Grader’s Sexual Orientation?

You can opt-out from invasive district surveys — here’s how

A model of a brain inside a partial head sits on top of a table and is connected by cords to two old-style video game joystick controllers.
Photo by Mo on Unsplash

In our society, we have disagreements. We argue about complex issues that don’t have clear, provable answers. We agree to disagree and get on with our lives.

But a parent’s right to raise children as they see fit — not just another conceptual idea open to discussion — is an integral part of a parent’s self and reason for being, and the purpose behind a parent’s unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. As parents, we require those rights and freedoms so we can do our best to fulfill our parental duties. We know and feel this to our core, through and through.

And yet — the Los Angeles Unified School District is quietly asking your children to answer deeply personal questions and collecting their mental health data year after year. They do this through the annual School Experience Survey, to be administered this year from October 24 — December 9, 2022. The survey includes personal questions, and many appear to be fishing for a student’s psychological profile — and yes, one of the first questions for grades 7–12 is:

“Choose one response from the options below that best describes you:

( ) Straight
( ) Lesbian
( ) Gay
( ) Bisexual
( ) Other
( ) I don’t know
( ) Prefer not to say”

Did LAUSD obtain your permission to collect and record this information? Probably not. Allow us to explain how LAUSD gets around this thorny issue.

Elongated shadows of two individuals holding hands appear against a concrete background. The figures appear to both be male but are ambiguous.
Photo by Robert V. Ruggiero on Unsplash

State law (California Education Code, Section 51513) states:

No test, questionnaire, survey or examination containing any questions about the pupil’s personal beliefs or practices in sex, family life, morality, and religion, or any questions about the pupil’s parents’ or guardians’ beliefs and practices in sex, family life, morality, and religion, shall be administered to any pupil in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, unless the parent or guardian of the pupil is notified in writing that this test, questionnaire, survey or examination is to be administered and the parent or guardian of the pupil gives written permission for the pupil to take this test, questionnaire, survey, or examination. (Emphasis added)

Clearly, this code section intends for school districts to obtain written “opt-in” permission from parents for surveys such as the School Experience Survey and is designed to protect parental rights over what questions children are asked about themselves and their families.

However, LAUSD’s Parent Student Handbook states:

Parents/legal guardians also can review the survey and request in writing that their child(ren) not participate in the survey (EC Section 51513); please contact the school for more information.

For additional information about the School Experience Survey, including the opportunity to review materials, please visit: https://achieve.lausd.net/Page/8397. (Emphasis added)

Did you notice how LAUSD turned the tables? The Handbook requires parents to actively “opt-out” their children from the survey, a clear misrepresentation of state law Section 51513. Or is LAUSD deliberately deceiving parents and withholding information on parental rights under state law?

And — wouldn’t this process first require parents to know about the survey and its questions to begin with? Information about the School Experience Survey is buried on Page 46 of the Handbook, on the second to last page. The survey results published in the SES Dashboard on the LAUSD website do not include the question (highlighted above) about students’ sexual orientation. Why not? Is the district attempting to hide the facts?

We compiled a list of the questions we found most disturbing (see below) and noted which of those are not included in the SES Dashboard.

Do you trust the district with your child’s personal psychological data? If you do, then the information in this article is not intended for you. If you’ve gotten this far and you are unsettled (or angry?), we can help. We are providing a template below for your use and customization to opt your children out from the survey.

To add insult to injury, LAUSD has not consistently posted updated translations of the complete set of student questions in other languages. The most recent versions posted in Spanish and Korean are for the 2019–2020 school year. No other languages are represented. The district makes a fuss about their efforts to improve parent engagement for English Language Learner populations, but when it counts, information to parents in their native language is not made available.

What do you make of this?

Parent Opt-Out Letter Template

A family consisting of a man, a woman and a child, all holding hands, are featured in shadow as they stand at a shoreline at sunset.
Photo by Daniel Joshua on Unsplash

Bernard J. Glass contributed to this article.

Select Questions That Cause Us Concern

  • I feel like I am part of this school.
  • I feel close to people at this school.
  • I feel accepted for who I am at this school.
  • I feel safe in this school or in online school sessions.
  • I feel safe in the neighborhood around this school.
  • LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer) students at this school are accepted. [GRADES 7–12 ONLY]
  • Choose one response from the options below that best describes you [GRADES 7–12 ONLY]:
    Straight, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Other, I don’t know, Prefer not to say
  • Had sexual jokes, comments, or gestures made to you? [GRADES 7–12 ONLY]
  • When learning new information, I try to put the ideas into my own words.
  • In my classes, I use evidence or collect data to come to my own conclusions.

Please answer how often you did the following during the past 30 days.

  • How often did you compliment others’ accomplishments?
    Almost All the Time, Often, Sometimes, Once in a While, Almost Never
  • How well did you get along with students who are different from you?
    Got Along Extremely Well, Got Along Pretty Well, Got Along Somewhat, Got Along a Little Bit, Did Not Get Along At All
  • When others disagreed with you, how respectful were you of their views?
    Extremely Respectful, Quite Respectful, Somewhat Respectful, Slightly Respectful, Not At All Respectful
  • How clearly were you able to describe your feelings?
    Extremely Clearly, Quite Clearly, Somewhat Clearly, Slightly Clearly, Not At All Clearly
  • How carefully did you listen to other people’s points of view?
    Extremely Carefully, Quite Carefully, Somewhat Carefully, Slightly Carefully, Not Carefully At All
  • I stayed calm, even when others bothered or criticized me.
    Almost never, Once in a while, Sometimes, Often, Almost all the time

Please indicate how true the following statements are for you.
Not at all true, A little true, Somewhat true, Mostly true , Completely true

  • I can change my intelligence with hard work.
  • I can increase my intelligence by challenging myself.
  • I am capable of learning anything.
  • I can do well in a subject even if I am not naturally good at it.

Please indicate how confident you are about the following.
Not at all confident, A little confident, Somewhat confident, Mostly confident, Completely confident

  • I can earn high marks/grades in my classes.
  • I can do well on all my tests, even when they’re difficult.
  • I can master the hardest topics in my classes.
  • I can meet all the learning goals my teachers set.

Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements.
Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither disagree nor agree, Agree, Strongly agree

  • Adults at my school have talked to me about what to do if someone makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • There is an adult at my school whom I trust and can talk to no matter what is bothering me.

Please indicate how true the following statements are for you.
Not at all true, A little true, Somewhat true, Mostly true , Completely true

  • I know how to get better at things that are hard for me to do at school.
  • I know what my strengths are.
  • I know when my feelings are making it hard for me to focus.
  • I understand how my feelings influence how I act.

Please indicate how true the following statements are for you.
Almost never, Once in a while, Sometimes, Often, Almost all the time

  • I think about what might happen before making a decision.
  • I admit when I have made a mistake.
  • I say “no” to friends who want me to do something I don’t want to do.

Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements.
Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither disagree nor agree, Agree, Strongly agree

  • Most adults at this school expect me to go to college.

Please indicate how true the following statements are for you.
Not at all true, A little true, Somewhat true, Mostly true , Completely true

  • Adults at my school have helped me learn about the types of colleges that are the best fit for me.

Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements.
Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither disagree nor agree, Agree, Strongly agree

  • My internet works well at home.
  • There is someone who helps me when I have a problem with technology at home.
  • Teachers at my school know me.
  • What is the highest level of education that you plan to complete?
    I do not plan to complete high school
    Complete high school
    Technical/vocational school certificate
    Two-year college degree — A.A.
    Four-year college degree — B.A./B.S.
    Graduate degree — M.A./M.S./Ed.D./Ph.D./M.D./J.D.
    I am unsure of my plans
  • What is your best guess about the highest level of education you plan to complete?
    I do not plan to complete high school
    Complete high school
    Technical/vocational school certificate
    Two-year college degree — A.A.
    Four-year college degree — B.A./B.S.
    Graduate degree — M.A./M.S./Ed.D./Ph.D./M.D./J.D.
  • Do you plan to apply to any four-year colleges?
    Yes, No
  • During this school year, if I need help with my math schoolwork, someone in my family is able to help me.
    Yes, No, Not applicable
  • During this school year, if I need help with my reading/English schoolwork, someone in my family is able to help me.
    Yes, No, Not applicable
  • I cheered someone up who was feeling sad.
    Yes, No, I don’t know
  • This school has resources to help students cope with stress and anxiety.
    Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither disagree nor agree, Agree, Strongly agree
  • How did you travel TO school this morning?
    Walk
    Bike, Skateboard, Scooter
    School Bus
    Family Car
    Carpool (students of different families ride together)
    Taxi, Uber/Lyft
    METRO/Dash bus or METRO Train
  • How will you travel when you LEAVE school this afternoon
    Walk
    Bike, Skateboard, Scooter
    School Bus
    Family Car
    Carpool (students of different families ride together)
    Taxi, Uber/Lyft
    METRO/Dash bus or METRO Train

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Maria Luisa Palma

Maria Luisa Palma

119 Followers

Contrarian, Critic, Disruptor. All my edges are sharp but I love a good laugh. Advocate for independent thought. General misfit known for ongoing rants.