Friday November 5, 2010

Ottawa-Carleton School Board to Ask Students their Sexual Orientation

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

OTTAWA, November 5, 2010 ( – The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board intends to conduct a survey of its students to “gather demographic information about the unique and diverse composition of our student population,” according to information on the public school board’s website.

The survey will be conducted between November 22 and December 10, 2010, with parents of students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6 filling out the questionnaire, while students in Grades 7 to 12 will be asked to complete the survey on their own during school time.

Question 12 in the Grades 7 to 12 survey asks the student to identify their gender, with options being Female, Male, Transgender, or Prefer not to disclose.

Question 13 in this survey asks: “How do you identify your sexual orientation? (Please check all that apply),” with the first option being Bisexual, followed by Gay (male), Heterosexual (straight), Lesbian (female), Queer, Questioning, Transsexual, Two-spirited, and Prefer not to disclose.

“The 2010 OCDSB Student Survey will be used to ensure that our students feel welcome and accepted in their schools, and are more likely to succeed in their overall studies,” the board states.

The board says the survey is voluntary, with parents of students in grades K-6 providing consent through participation in the survey.

However, parents of students in grades 7 to 12 are required to notify the school in writing if they don’t want their children to participate.

The OCDSB also says that the survey is confidential, although it is not anonymous.

“Individual survey responses will not include a student’s name or student number when completed. Instead each survey will have a unique survey number. Students’ names and their corresponding student identity numbers will be stored in two separate locations to protect confidentiality. Sensitive information will only be made available to the school principal in accordance with Board Policy,” the OCDSB website states.

In the question and answer section of the OCDSB website, the question is asked: “I’ve heard the Student Survey asks some questions about race, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. What do these have to do with student achievement?” To this the school board responded: “Studies have shown that students who feel connected to their school do better academically. By understanding more about the demographic make-up of our student population, we can better meet their learning needs.”

Concerns over the personal, intrusive and inappropriate nature of the survey have been raised.

An Ottawa mother with two high-school aged children told the Ottawa Citizen that she was “taken aback” by some of the questions in the survey.

“This is adult stuff,” she said. “I’m very shocked that they want to know if I’m employed, unemployed and what my educational degrees are.”

She also called the survey “negative-option marketing” because of the requirement to notify the school in writing to opt out.

“Why do I have to contact the school and say, ‘No, my child won’t participate,’ when everything else (the school does), they send home permission slips,” she said.

The 2010 OCDSB Student Survey for Grades 7-12 is available here.

The 2010 OCDSB Student Survey for JK to Grade 6 is available here.

Contact info for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board:

Barrie Hammond, Director of Education

(contact thru Executive Assistant Marie Bulgin)

Phone: 613-596-8211, ext 8219

Email: [email protected]

133 Greenbank Road

Ottawa, ON K2H 6L3

Phone: 613-596-8211 or 613-721-1820

Email: [email protected]

See related LSN article:

Toronto School Board to Ask All High School Students Their Sexual Orientation

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