A group of Topsham parents say that their children were asked to complete an in-class anonymous survey on sensitive topics, without parental consent.

The survey was sent to high school students Wednesday as part of a health class assignment by a teacher at Mt. Ararat High School.

Parents raised this issue during the school board meeting Thursday evening. They said the survey was sent to students without parental consent, which is a violation of school board policy. In addition, parents alleged that it is a violation of federal Protection of Pupils Rights.

The survey asked questions on sensitive topics, including illicit drug use, sexual activity, alcohol consumption and coping with stress, among others.

“It is disturbing. It’s the school’s policy that sensitive information in a survey is approved, give the parents a chance to review and option to opt out, which was not done,” said a parent of a junior student Stacey McCoy Wheeler. “I am tired that kids answered these surveys without a thought because they are told that they have no right in the school setting and are conditioned to believe that divulging your personal information is no big deal.”

A similar survey was distributed to Mt. Ararat Middle School students earlier this year as part of a diversity project.

After that incident, Interim Superintendent Robert Lucy, in a letter to the parents, said the school district did not follow it’s policy regarding student surveys. The policy requires that parents or guardians be given prior notice of any survey “collecting certain types of information before it is sent to students” so they can review and opt out if they choose.

“We were told it was going to be fixed, and it’s happening again,” said school board member Eric Lusk. “I was going through the survey screenshots today. What is being done with the information collected? Why does the teacher need that information unless they know who is answering the question.”

Lucy said he learned about the incident Wednesday evening and is gathering more information about how and why this survey was issued.

“I am going to do my due diligence to conduct a thorough review and get answers on what happened. Once the investigation is completed, we will provide a report on it,” said Lucy.

The report will be discussed at a special board meeting Thursday.

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