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Virginia: Student Sex Survey Rattles Officials; Fairfax Supervisors to Discuss Rephrasing on Wide-Ranging Form

January 22, 2003

"How old were you when you first had sex?" "Did you drink alcohol beforehand?" "Have you ever had oral sex?" Those are some of the proposed questions on a survey to be given to thousands of Fairfax County, Va., students this April, along with more than 100 other questions on drug use, suicide, weight loss and family relationships. But some members of the county Board of Supervisors, which is paying for the survey, want to drop the section on sex, saying it could give teenagers ideas. Others want to rephrase those questions so they do not suggest that such behavior is all right. Still others contend that asking students about sex will yield useful information.

The survey is to be distributed to 10,000 randomly chosen sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, but only sophomores and seniors would get the questions on sex. The aim is to find out whether -- and, if so, when -- Fairfax youths engage in risky behavior so that education and treatment programs can be tailored accordingly.

A task force of health officials, school administrators, police and parents designed Fairfax's survey. Its first one, in 2001, did not mention sex. For the new survey, the task force added seven sexual conduct questions taken from a CDC survey and two of its own creation. Although the topic is not covered in Fairfax's sex education curriculum, task force members had read several national studies showing that more teenagers are engaging in oral sex, said Mary Shaughnessy, a Fairfax School District official. "The more information we have, the better our prevention and intervention can be," she said.

But Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R-Dranesville) said, "The questions could lead a young person to think there's something wrong if they haven't done that kind of thing," and he worried the survey will "send the wrong message."

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Students may choose not to participate in the survey, although only 110 of 12,000 students did so in 2001. Parents will receive a memo describing the survey and may decide they do not want their children to take it.

Back to other CDC news for January 22, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Washington Post
01.20.03; David Cho



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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