The topic now brewing discussion with parents across the nation after a middle school in Massachusetts had students respond to a survey.
Here's the complete story on Huffingtonpost.com
The story triggered a nationwide discussion among moms on the usa.momslikeme.com site. Join the discussion here.
Tough topic! There looks to be two issues here:
1) Should the school have notified parents that students would be taking a survey?
2) Is middle school too soon to begin talking to kids about oral sex?
In response to #2, if middle school is the first time a parent has spoken to their child about sex, the "talk" is long overdue. Is it time for an update to the talk so that it includes oral sex? Maybe so. Consider the discussion that a friend of mine faced when her daughter asked, "What's oral sex? My friends are talking about it." Now, the discussion is reactive and you're caught, as she was, thinking about an in the moment response to a question that really deserves more than a reactionary few words.
On issue #1: Having worked in schools and now with soon to be teachers at a university level, the parent/school connection is a constant topic of discussion. A few questions to consider, "How is the school planning to use the data from the survey? Will the school/district reform their health curriculum to address oral sex education? Was this a district created survey that schools were mandated to send out or an option for individual schools?
On a parallel line of questioning, if the school would have given parents the choice to have their kids opt out of taking the survey, how many would have exercised their choice to opt out? How many of us would have allowed our students to take the survey? As a middle school parent now my first thought was, "I haven't spoken with my daughter about oral sex. Does she know what it is? And if so, who told her?" My frustration would be focused more on the lack of communication from the school about the survey rather than the survey itself. Having the choice or at least the knowledge that the survey was to take place is truly where the brunt of frustration resides in the parent/school connection.
Having spoken to middle school parents across the nation, sex always appears as one of the top five concerns. Most parents agree that they would prefer to be the one who first speaks to their child about the topic rather than waiting to clear up any misinformation that the collective middle school mindset may have created.
The challenge then is to consider how you will reframe the "talk". How can you make a preemptive strike in sharing accurate information about oral sex that informs without condoning it, so that your child feels equipped to respond when a friend says, "Hey that survey today was crazy, who do you know that is having oral sex?"