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7 November 18, 2010 - OTTAWA THIS WEEK - CENTRAL

News

School board seeks data on religion, family makeup in new student survey JENNIFER MCINTOSH jennifer.mcintosh@metroland.com

A proposed survey for students of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is receiving mixed reviews from parents. The board will survey the parents of students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6, while students in Grades 7 to 12 will be asked to complete the survey on their own. Both surveys touch on a wide range of issues, including academic abilities, bullying, extracurricular activities, cultural backgrounds and language, and religious affiliation. The board says it’s an effort to better serve its diverse student population, but some fear the questions go too far, especially for students in Grade 7. Some parents have questioned the ability of students as young as 12 being asked questions about their sexual orientation and family’s religious background. “I remember getting the survey last spring for teachers,” Lisa Nash, a parent and teacher at Merivale High School, said. “And a lot of adults had trouble answering that (sexual orientation) question and being able to tell the difference between ‘gay and queer’

or know what terms like ‘two-spirited’ means. If we had trouble understanding, then my feeling is kids are too.” Nash said she is also concerned about the possibility of kids skewing the survey results by putting joke answers. “We used to have a reading and writing survey-type test for Grade 9 students and they would goof around and skew the results,” she said. Nash, whose middle daughter is in Grade 12, said she is in favour of finding the right places to put board programming, but doesn’t see how the survey will accomplish that. Anne Teutsch, chair of the Merivale High School parent council says she is glad the survey is coming to school. Tuestch, as a member of the Ottawa Carleton Assembly of School Councils (OCASC) has been aware of the survey for awhile. “I know some people are concerned, but frankly, I don’t see how it’s a big deal,” she said. “The board needs the information to better serve the schools. Teutsch dismissed the question about students’ sexuality – saying that in this day and age, people should be ready for open and frank discussions. “Really, if that is the most contro-

versial question on the survey, then where are we today?” she said. “I know at Merivale we have a club for students that serves the gay, bi-sexual, lesbian and transgender students.” The board is ready to move on the survey despite the controversy. Zone 5 - College trustee Pam Fitzgerald said that the survey is great news for the board. “Gone are the days where the board can fund the same programs at all the schools, so we need to target where we have programming,” she said. Fitzgerald said the survey will help staff know which areas to target for anti-bullying programming, or in the case of high immigrant populations, English as a Second Language courses. “The schools should know their own populations though,” Nash said, saying getting the information from staff would serve the board better than the survey might. Donna Blackburn, trustee-elect for Zone 3 – Barrhaven/Knoxdale-Merivale, said that she is in favour of the new survey. “I think the information asked in the survey is something the board needs to better serve the students,” she said. “That should be our goal.”

QUESTION SAMPLES An example of a question from the junior kindergarten to Grade 6 survey: •Who are the adult caregivers your child lives with most of the time? The answers include: • Mother and father • Mother only • Father only • Mother and step-father • Foster parents • Two mothers • Two fathers An example of a question from the Grades 7 to 12 survey • How do you identify your sexual orientation? The answers include: • Bi-sexual • Gay (male) • Heterosexual (straight) • Lesbian (female) • Transsexual

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Ottawa This Week - Central  

November 18, 2010

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