Parade of Minnesota Surveys……………….. Search Institute: Much More Going on Than “Decision Making”

Your Kids

Search Institute Survey’s:  Much More Going on Than “Decision Making”                                      By: Anne Taylor

Search Institute:  This is a local, 50 year plus research organization based out of Minneapolis that’s gone national while seeking to identify high risk behaviors and attitudes in youth with the intention of early intervention through community based programming.

Students are often given the “Profiles of Student Life:  Attitudes and Behaviors” survey.

Surveys come in two formats:  One for 4th-6th grade, the other for 7th grade and up which asks approximately 160+ questions for its older students and are similar in nature to the Minnesota Student Health Survey MACC posted last week.  Questions are extremely personal asking students, who they live with, illegal drug usage, including prescription drugs, alcohol and cigarette use, sexual orientation, birth control, binge eating, suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation, sexual activity and use of birth control, as well as friendships and who they feel they can confide in, parent/guardian highest level of education, even asking if they hurt someone bad enough to need bandages or a doctor to asking if the student uses a gun or weapon to get what they want from a person.

The nonprofit organization relies solely upon donations, largely, which according to Search Institute’s 2010 tax returns came primarily from Altria of nearly $700K in funds.  Others include Capitol One and Miller/Coors, when combined, contributed over $600K to the organization.  Even our own US Department of Justice gave Search Institute a whopping $50,196.

The following are local companies here in Minnesota that funded Search Institute and their amount:

  • General Mills: $138,488
  • General Mills Foundation: $10,000
  • National Institute on Media & the Family: $97,355
  • McKnight Foundation: $50,000
  • Trillium & Minneapolis Foundation: $30,000
  • Cargill Foundation: $25,000 
  • Minneapolis Foundation: $25,000
  • Curtis Carlson Family Foundation: $20,455
  • Sauer Children’s Renew Foundation: $15,000
  • 3M Foundation: $10,000
  • Best Buy: $8,813
  • Thrivent Financial for Lutherans: $5,000 (*Appleton, WI)

While the organization started small and has received nationwide recognition for its efforts, so have complaints from parents.  While we want our kids to succeed, at what cost with the kind of intrusive meddling these companies are promoting by questions they are asking youth?  For it is the very nature of the way in which these questions are normalized where ideas or behaviors that is problematic become the societal norm.

Companies, as well as individual donors contribute financially Search Institutes research, information and programming – but have they themselves viewed the questions?  These surveys can also be accessed the same way through a school issued device, no doubt linking it to a student’s school issued ID code.

There have been many issues in varying states with Search Institute’s survey content in their schools among parents.  The most recent took place in Bedford, New Hampshire in 2014 where parents became outraged at not having proper disclosure on the nature of questions their child was subject to.  Schools can order a ‘purged version’ of the survey to not include sexual questions, but not all of them do.  And while parents are given the notice to opt-out, others will argue that students (some between the ages of 11-13) are told that they can stop the survey themselves at any time if they want to.  Many parents argue a child that age wont or cannot due to peer pressure.

In the fall of 2012, the Minnetonka school district considered having Search Institute perform their survey on its middle and high school students.  After concerns rose among parents, including myself, it was shortly after that parents received a notice from the district that they would not perform the survey stating they decided to withdraw it, already having collected data from surveys conducted last spring to accomplish their goals.

States such as Connecticut, Texas and New Jersey sued Search Institute with the intent to stop the survey completely arguing that it violates rights of privacy and the first amendment.  The case was thrown out of Federal court, which was upheld by federal appeals court in a 2005 controversial decision.

PARENTS:  PLEASE TAKE 5 MINUTES OF YOUR TIME TO VIEW the Fox News clip that contains the actual questions of the survey and listen to what a retired principal has to say on opposing these kinds of surveys.  Where is the outrage, Minnesota?!!