Hardy Middle School and the D.C. Public Schools system are coming under fire after a revelation about its sex-education program. But D.C. schools are standing their ground.
Beth Solomon, writing for the Georgetown Dish, exposed a survey being administered to Hardy Middle School students.
The assessment -- which Solomon said that Hardy seventh-graders described as a "sex test" -- asked students questions about their experience with or understanding of sex, drugs and gender.
Solomon described the questions as graphic, noting that one question asked students to describe their gender, listing transgender as an option. Another question asked whether middle schoolers knew the difference between various sex acts or how to put on a condom.
The Dish described unnamed parents as "upset" and said that their feelings were "at first brushed off by school administrators." (Hardy Middle School Principal Dana Nerenberg did not immediately return a call for comment. Assistant principal Loren Brody said that he was caught between classes and could not talk.)
On Tuesday, the D.C. Public Schools system defended the program and its relationship with Metro TeenAIDS, the organization that administered the survey.
In reacting to an outcry of opinion over the story, DCPS delivered some real talk: Nearly seven percent of all D.C. teens were diagnosed with chlamydia in 2008. Further, D.C. teens account for half of all chlamydia and gonorrhea cases in D.C. And more than three percent of District residents older than 12 are living with HIV or AIDS, according to the Washington Post.
So while the teen with whom Solomon spoke might have been bewildered by the school survey on sexual activity, not all D.C. teens are so innocent.
DCPS shot back that the "sex test" was no test at all.
"The 'pre-test' Hardy students were given was not a test at all, but an assessment used to determine the students’ baseline knowledge and to responsibly assure that students get all of the information and skills they need to protect themselves," said a DCPS statement.
The District apologized for one aspect of the survey: an opt-out letter to be delivered to parents was sent out the same day the assessment was delivered. Nerenberg sent a message to the parents of students who took the assessment as well as a second opt-out form.
The survey comes in the wake of the revelation that four students killed themselves over two years in Mentor, Ohio, as a result of bullying. After it was reported that a recent gay student's suicide was prompted by bullying, GLBT stars like Ellen DeGeneres and Tim Gunn and their allies released messages expressing support for GLBT youth suffering from bullying.
A Health Resources and Services Administration report said that a 2002 poll by the National Mental Health Association found that 78 percent of students aged 12 to 17 reported that kids who are gay or perceived to be gay are bullied.
Solomon's writeup of the Hardy Middle School sex-ed program implied that a question asking whether students self-identified as "transgender" or cisgender was in some sense offensive.
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