has been selected to participate in a survey administered by the state Department of Human Services.
The New Jersey Middle School Risk and Protective Factor survey includes several pages of questions – many personal in nature – that students are asked to answer after their parents give permission. Students' responses to the questions remain anonymous, according to a letter from the department to Superintendent Walter Hrycenko, and the survey will be administered by state personnel over the course of one class period.
The purpose of the 70-question survey, according to the letter, is to help identify the needs for school and community health programs, assist professionals in planning prevention and intervention programs at the local and state levels and to boost the level of data state officials have in determining programs needed to curtail tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
A copy of last year's survey provided to the district, and reviewed by Brick Patch, shows that students were asked numerous questions about their school and their family and personal lives. Aside from demographic questions such as age, race and grade level, students were also asked whether their parents served in the military – and specifically whether a parent served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The survey posed multiple questions to students on how their teachers perform, and whether they feel safe at school. It also asked whether students have smoked, drank alcohol, used drugs, stole property, carried a handgun, or picked a fight with someone over a given period of time. Another section of the survey went into detail to find out what age at which children may have used a laundry list of specific drugs for the first time.
The students were also asked if they like living in their neighborhood, whether parents set rules at home, and how often the rules are broken.
But the survey also asks about good traits in students, including whether or not they obey their parents and teachers, if they attend religious services, or if they perform acts of volunteer community service.
When asked about the types of questions in the survey at a recent Board of Education meeting, Hrycenko did not comment on the nature of the questions themselves, but said the district doesn't have much of a choice in the matter of whether to allow the survey or not.
"We've been selected by the state," said Hrycenko. "So when the state selects you to do these, you kind of have to do them."