Controversial middle school survey approvedGillian Swart
05/08/2013 5:43 AM
The Malden schools are moving forward with a controversial survey for middle school students — and they’re letting one city councilor know his input on the topic was not appreciated.
The School Committee voted unanimously on May 6 to proceed with the bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Study, which asks questions about health indicators like sleeping, eating, substance abuse and sexual behavior.
The survey was originally slated for April, but was postponed after parents complained of getting only two days notice.
Speaking on May 6, School Superintendent David DeRuosi said parents were notified of the survey the previous week via letters and robocalls. The School Committee agreed that all middle school students in grades 6 to 8 would take the survey on May 8 unless their parents opted out.
Committee members also agreed to draft a “letter of disappointment” to the Malden City Council for what was termed interference in school business by City Councilor Neil Kinnon, who reportedly posted the survey online and through social media.
“It should never have gone out publicly like that,” said DeRuosi.
Speaking at the School Committee’s April 16 meeting, Kinnon said the issue “rises to the level of the City Council.” Committee members disagreed with that position, and Kinnon’s alleged dissemination of the survey.
“I am very, very disappointed that that happened,” said committee member Leonard Iovino. “It’s a long-standing tradition that members of the Malden School Committee stay out of City Council business and City Council members stay out of School Committee business.”
School Committee Vice Chairman Adam Weldai added the council invited parents to a recent meeting to vent about the survey, saying he’s “extremely disappointed in the actions of the City Council.”
The survey is conducted in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance and Malden Health Department, with the stated goal of improving the health of Malden residents.
DeRuosi said posting the survey online would be a violation of study protocol. Malden pays the Cambridge Health Alliance $10,000 per year for its services, DeRuosi said.
The survey was originally set for April 9, and parents were notified via robocall the evening of April 7 At its April 16 meeting, the council allowed parent Michael Foresteire to speak out against the survey, and the district held a public forum to discuss the issues before the May 6 committee meeting.
DeRuosi said he will present the survey results to local Parent Teacher Organizations in an effort to work with parents and clarify some of the survey questions.