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After rejecting federal teen health survey, Florida has yet to release results of their survey

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Posted at 6:51 PM, Aug 18, 2023

UPDATE |
On Monday, August 21st, Florida Department of Education Communications Director Cailey Myers sent us the following response:

The workgroup was convened to inform the process for the development of the Florida-Specific Youth Survey. Since the survey has been developed and administered, the workgroup has successfully accomplished their responsibilities.

The Department looks forward to publishing the survey data, which will provide enhanced alignment of services, support and instruction to better meet the needs of our students.

Florida’s newly created health survey for teens seems to have fallen out of sight but not out of mind.

“I think this is just a ball that has been dropped. It's been enough time, I would like to see some results,” said Christy Devigili, a Lee County parent and advocate for parents’ rights. Devigili is also among 14 workgroup members selected to help develop Florida’s new youth behavior survey.

“If it has to do with our kids, we should be involved in the conversation and that's why I wanted to be on this committee,” she said.

Created earlier this year by Florida’s Department of Education (FDOE), the voluntary survey replaced theCDC’s youth risk behavior survey, a biannual student questionnaire long used to chart and compare risky behavior among U.S. teens.

But after Florida’s education boss deemed the federal version had become “sexualized,” the FDOE created its own and distributed its first round to more than a dozen school districts this past mid-April. Students had through mid-May to participate in the survey if they wanted to.

But three months later, the state has yet to release any results from the new survey.

Devigili told us recently she also hasn’t heard anything more about the survey, even after sending emails to FDOE seeking updates. Just before 5 p.m. on Friday, Devigili received an email from the FDOE stating that they would be in touch once results from the survey became available.

Devigili said the workgroup met four times between December and March, mostly over Zoom. Their last meeting was in March, and other than an email from FDOE sent to the group in May, she said, state communication about the survey has all but stopped.

“Our voices were no longer being heard, and the committee that we all joined that we thought was going to be this collaborative effort between the Department of Education and parents and community members, and teachers are not existent anymore,” she said.

In previous interviews, other workgroup members also described a lack of communication from the state and an overall process to develop the new survey as pre-determined and pushed through quickly, some said.

RELATED: Florida rejected federal youth health survey for being too sexual, so it came up with its own

“It felt like the level of input that was taken from the workgroup was fairly minimal and that many decisions were made by some other entity outside of the workgroup,” Caitlyn Clibbon of Disability Rights Florida told us back in May.

After serving on the workgroup, Clibbon wrote a letter to the FDOE in May expressing her concerns about a process that “felt very rushed.”

Clibbon also raised issues with the content of the new survey, which eliminated a lot of topics and behaviors that, Clibbon believed measure “actual youth behavior,” like violence, drug use, and gun exposure. Instead, Clibbon is concerned the survey puts too much emphasis on character and resiliency traits, including perseverance, gratitude and citizenship.

According to the state’s timeline, student results from the new survey were scheduled to be published this summer.

Despite repeated emails, Florida’s education department has yet to respond to our requests for results or any updates about the survey.

“We had a goal in mind, and that was to help create a specific survey for the students of the state of Florida that was well within the confines of the law and respected the rights of parents and students, and still provided the necessary data to all those entities out there that need and use that data,” she said. “Now, we just need to follow through. We need to see those results,” said Devigili.

While this voluntary survey went out to select districts and schools, the FDOE has refused to release that information, citing those details are protected from public release because its considered “trade secrets.”

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