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Parents of young students upset by survey about alcohol, sex

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Parents want to know why their youngsters are being asked about drugs and sexual orientation in some Middle Tennessee classrooms.

The state of Tennessee has a school climate survey that is being given to middle school kids for the first time ever.

While administrators say they want to know more about the children in their schools, a lot of the parents are outraged over the questions.

Dana Swaffer and Jennifer Smith can't decide what they are more upset about: the objectionable content of the survey or that they weren't notified.

"It's just so infuriating that we are being left in the dark about our children," said Metro parent Smith. "Our children are not guinea pigs. We did not sign a consent form saying they can collect our children's data, that they can ask them these invasive questions."

The questions include topics ranging from "have you had five or more drinks in the past 30 days" to "have you tried marijuana" and "has anyone bullied you for your sexual orientation?"

Swaffer's daughter is a fifth-grader in Metro schools and was disturbed by the questions.

"When it comes down to it, she is our child. And some of the questions really raised flags about how exactly does that tie into education. And how is that the responsibility of the board of education to introduce those things to my child? My child didn't know what huffing was," Swaffer said.

The state says the school climate survey is the result of a federal grant and that 27 districts volunteered to take it. For the first time ever, middle schools were an option this year.

Local districts are responsible for creating policies around parental notification and consent, said Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman Kelli Gautheir.

Joe Bass, spokesman for Metro Nashville Public Schools, said that all principals were told to inform parents and give instruction on how to opt out of the survey.

None of this sounds good enough to state Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, who has introduced a bill to make parental notification required by law.

"I don't think there's a parent in the world who thinks schools should be given carte blanche to ask students about these questions. In fifth grade, they are at all different levels," Butt said.

Metro has put the survey on hold and said this is the first year they have received complaints.

Again, Metro said they did instruct all principals to inform parents of the survey and they are looking into whether that happened.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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