17 September, 2010 - 06:00
According to a document published by the Utah State Board of Education entitled “Promises to Keep” Utah’s public education system is created in the Utah State Constitution to “secure and perpetuate” freedom. Freedom, as envisioned in the Utah Constitution, is a promise to future generations that requires:
• Citizen participation in civic and political affairs
• Economic prosperity for the community
• Strong moral and social values
• Loyalty and commitment to constitutional government
With those basic tenants in mind I would like to briefly discuss two topics that are of importance to our community and our public school students.
On Tuesday evening, September 14, the Morgan Board of Education, upon my request, approved conducting the Sharp Survey in the spring of this school year. The students taking the survey will be asked to complete one of two questioners: the Prevention Needs Assessment or the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The Prevention Needs Assessment measures alcohol, tobacco, and drug use; the factors that place students at risk for problem behaviors; and the factors that protect students from problem behaviors. Information gained from the survey will allow our school district and the State of Utah to continue to provide comprehensive prevention programs for our schools and children. This survey will be administered to student in grades 8, 10, 12.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey measures alcohol, tobacco, and drug use; antisocial behaviors; health behaviors; and school safety. This survey is only administered to students in grade 10 and 12.
According to state law, a student’s parents must give permission before their student can participate in the survey. Parents need to be aware that their child’s participation is completely voluntary and confidential. If your child does not participate, he or she will not be penalized or lose any school benefits to which he or she is otherwise entitled. Your child may discontinue the survey or skip any or all questions on the survey without penalty or loss of any school benefits to which they are otherwise entitled.
The survey will take about 45 minutes to complete. All responses will be completely anonymous and confidential. Results will be reported for groups of students; because the survey is anonymous, responses cannot be linked to any individual student.
The Board believes it is in the best interest of our students and the district to gather accurate and scientific data in order to address the unique needs of our community. The data will help direct school intervention strategies and also provide accurate direction for the community-based Morgan Empowered group to focus their attention on our unique needs and concerns. Morgan Empowered consist of community members from the schools, county, city, community councils, law enforcement, state social services departments, religious organizations, business leaders, and parent groups.
The survey will be administered in late February or early March of 2011. Additional information, copies of the survey and parent permission forms will be forth coming after the first of the year.
On Tuesday, September 14, the President of the United States addressed school children across the nation in regards to the importance of education. His comments did not address a particular political party platform. His message and intent were to encourage students to take their educational pursuits seriously and take advantage of the opportunities of gaining knowledge.
The district’s position is simple: we respect the Office of the President of the United States regardless of the person or party presently in power. A major premise of public education is to educate and promote the tenants of a free society and the Constitution of the United States. The Office of President of the United States is the pinnacle figurehead of those tenants.
Respecting parental rights the district did provide an option for those who did not want their child to listen to the President’s address. Those children were provided other educational experiences during the time of the broadcast. Teachers and principals were also given discretion to view or not to view the speech based on their particular course content and school schedule at the time of the broadcast. A vast majority of parents did not “opt” their children out of listening to the speech.
We are fortunate to live in the United States of America and in the beautiful State of Utah. Isn’t it wonderful that we can have differences of opinion on the methods and strategies of prevention, yet still cooperate with one another in the common cause to keep our children free from the influences of drugs and alcohol. Being able to respect the office of the President of the United States and at the same time have the right to oppose or support the individual holding the office is one of our most precious freedoms. And perhaps most importantly, in this country and state, parents have the right to allow their children to participate or not to participate in a voluntary and anonymous drug and alcohol survey and rather or not to allow their child to view or not to view a public address to students from our President.