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The Iowa Department of Public Health provided schools with the Iowa Youth Survey and Youth Risk Behavior Survey to be jointly administered from Sept. 27 through Nov. 12, 2021. According to IDPH, the surveys “collect valuable youth health behavior data that drives funding, program and policy decisions in communities across the state.”

All public and private school districts serving sixth, eighth and 11th-grade students are invited to participate. A small sample of high schools are invited to participate in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

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A video is linked citing important data IDPH and the CDC obtained from the survey. A letter is also online to be sent to parents.

“The purpose of the survey is to collect information from Iowa youth so we can better understand their behaviors, experiences, and beliefs about what makes them feel secure, strong, and safe in their communities, schools, and families. Students are asked about their experiences with and perceptions of many topics, such as:

• nutrition, exercise and sleep habits;
• youth mental health;
• pandemic impacts;
• alcohol, tobacco and other drugs;
• bullying, harassment and interpersonal violence;
• extracurricular activities and volunteering; and,
• school climate and adult support.

Parents are provided information about the survey, given an opportunity in the letter to read the survey questions at the school or online before the student answers the questions and an opportunity to provide written refusal if they do not want their student to participate.

The letter notes some sensitive questions will be asked about alcohol, illegal drugs and violence — but fails to mention sexuality.

Here is the survey itself. And here are some of the questions:

Right away, the first page of questions for sixth, eighth and 11th-grade students includes:

*Which of the following best describes you? Male or female
*Which of the following best describes you? Straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, another identity, not sure.

Shortly after (the next page), students are asked if their parent or guardian has ever gone to jail, prison or a detention center. They’re also asked if during the current school year they’ve attended religious services, programs or activities.

They’re asked about screen time. They’re asked about how much fruit and vegetables they have had in the past week. They’re asked if they have gone hungry in the past 30 days because there wasn’t enough food in the home.

Another question asks if the student has been homeless. Another asks if they’ve bet on sporting events, fantasy sports, card games, etc.

Mental health questions include:

*In the past 12 months, have you thought about killing yourself?
*In the past 12 months, have you made a plan about how you would kill yourself?
*In the past 12 months, have you tried to kill yourself?

Students are asked to indicate what level of risk accompanies the following behaviors:

*Drinking 4 (female) 5 (male) or more drinks of alcohol within a couple of hours
*Smoking cigarettes regularly
*Using marijuana regularly
*Gambling regularly
*Using methamphetamines (crank) regularly
*Using cocaine regularly
*Using amphetamines other than methamphetamines (like stimulants, uppers, speed) regularly
*Using any other illegal drug regularly

Finally, on page eight, Question 31 deals with the actual school.

On page 11, students are asked how easy or hard they think it would be for someone their age to get a firearm, marijuana, illegal drug, alcohol, etc.

The Iowa Standard reached out to IDPH about the survey. We asked:

*Who comes up with the questions
*Do parents have to opt their child in or what is the process for participation
*How long has IDPH asked Iowa students about their sexuality
*What benefits are provided IDPH by asking students about their sexuality
*Is there any unintended risk of asking students if they’ve thought about killing themselves and how they’d kill themselves — as in does IDPH consider it may be planting seeds or ideas in the minds of people who wouldn’t otherwise have even thought about it or considered it?
*Since the survey is anonymous, and school and health care professionals are mandatory reporters, how will any of these individual students actually receive help as required by law?

Author: Jacob Hall

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