April 24, 2003
Hotly protested by many parents, the survey had more than 100 questions on topics ranging from smoking and suicide to weight loss and family relationships. Questions about sexual behavior were to only be asked of sophomores and seniors. Survey participation was to be on a voluntary basis. Questions ascertaining sexual behavior included, "How old were you when you first had sex?" and "Have you ever had oral sex?"
A similar survey given in New Jersey resulted in parents suing the company that distributed the questionnaires without parental permission. New Jersey now requires such consent before students can take surveys or tests that ask for family, medical, political, or financial information.
County officials, who focus health curricula and apply for grants based on survey results, said they attempted to persuade Channing Bete -- which usually does not include questions about students' sexual behavior -- not to withdraw. "We explained to them that we just cannot give a broad-based indemnification. ... But it was a business decision on their part" said Karen Harwood, deputy attorney for Fairfax County.
Laura Yager, director of prevention services for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, said a 2001 survey helped to obtain more than $1 million in grants and led to a revamping of alcohol and drug programs, based on findings that Fairfax seniors had a higher binge drinking rate than the national average.