We’re getting a deepening understanding about the events taking place regarding the Youth Risky Behavior Survey (YRBS) that culminated in the abrupt cancelation of plans to administer the survey in the next four weeks in Duval County. It is the abrupt reaction of the school district and the hastiness of its decisions that throw off long-set plans and NGO partnerships that is causing the whiplash.
One can only speculate about what might have happened behind the scenes from Tuesday’s School Board meeting in which our favorite ‘my way or the highway, no wait, forget the highway, my way, period’ group of malcontents complained about the survey and the questions that were asked to Friday’s receipt of a letter from Manny Diaz, Jr., the current Commissioner of Education.
The letter is a classic example of bureaucratic dictatorship in which, without ever saying it directly, the bureaucrat makes clear the decision that will be made and leaves the impression that there will be consequences if the desired decision is not forthcoming. It also contains opinions stated as facts, another rhetorical flourish of someone who will brook no discussion of the issue. (Paragraph 1: “such an inflammatory and sexualized survey …” Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) wonders if the Commissioner has even seen the questions.)
But the letter overreaches and betrays the Commissioner as an ignorant man when it comes to education, child/adolescent development, youth culture, and youth behavior when he asserts that if a child even sees the questions, that will induce them to engage in behaviors they would not otherwise have imagined.
That won’t stop him, though, from lecturing Dr. Greene, who has earned post-secondary degrees in K-12 Curriculum and Instruction (Ph.D) and Educational Leadership (MS). Clearly, the man who carried the water for his charter school employer in the Florida Senate knows more than she does about what is helpful, educational, and developmentally-appropriate for youth. (“The primary focus of your district should be …” and “you should refocus your efforts on teaching and learning …”, also “my first priority has and will always be …”)
On top of that, the district received this letter from the Florida Department of Health (FLDOH):
It is the FLDOH that gathers the surveys, analyzes the responses, and reports on the results. Without notice, it informed the Superintendent that it refuses to honor its contract even though a 30-day notice of cancelation is required by contract. The Superintendent was put into an untenable situation and was forced to abort the plans for the 2023 survey for which the school district was under contract with the Center for Disease Control to administer.
What a mess! Dr. Greene made this statement (reported in the story from News4Jax, a local TV station):
“Since 2009, the YRBS has been used to provide the district and health partners with extensive data about the experiences of our students and the services they need,” said Dr. Diana Greene, superintendent. “We know we are serving multiple students as young as middle school who are already moms and dads. Even though this survey is going away, we will do our best to remain attentive to the experiences and behaviors of our students and continue to work with other community partners to address their needs.”
How Duval County Public Schools will do that in the future is uncertain. We will have to await further whiplash … er, developments as this controverse du jour continues.