CMS drops question asking students about sexual orientation, gender identity in survey

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said it dropped a question on the district’s student climate survey asking students about their sexual orientation and gender identity after hearing concerns from parents.

In a Facebook post Saturday, Superintendent Earnest Winston said parents were concerned about the wording of the question and the need to talk to staff and families about it.

“We do not want the new questions to distract from the important work underway in CMS," said Winston.

He said he has removed it from this year’s survey and has erased all answers that had already been given. He said moving forward, the district will continue to work to improve communication with families.

The survey is aimed to get students’ “feedback on school climate, safety, behavior, harassment and bullying.”

For example, the survey asks if students feel safe in school.

It also asks students whether they agree or disagree on whether there is a teacher or adult students can go to if they need help because of bullying or harassment, sexual assault or violence.

Below are a few more of the questions.

-How do you describe your gender identity (check one)

  • Male
  • Female
  • Non-binary
  • Gender fluid

-Do you identify as transgender?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure

-Which of the following best describes your sexual orientation?

  • Straight/heterosexual
  • Gay or Lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Pansexual
  • Asexual
  • Questioning my sexual orientation
  • Other

All students fifth through twelfth grade are given the survey, but it isn’t until sixth grade that they’re asked about sexual orientation.

Several parents commented on Channel 9’ Facebook post:

“Why do they think they have the right to ask such personal questions like this?” one questioned.

Another post read: “It helps them learn how to best serve their students."

The district said students’ answers are confidential.

The survey is part of the district’s federal Title IX requirements.

CMS said students are asked to take the survey every year, but this was the first year that questions were added about gender identity and sexual orientation.

Students have until Feb. 28 to take the voluntary survey.

CMS explained the information collected is anonymous, but some parents said they’re concerned because students signed in with their CMS ID’s to take the survey.

“One might wonder about the security of the information,” a parent said.

CMS sent Channel 9 the following statement:

"The student climate survey is administered annually to CMS students in grades 5-12, asking questions about the climate of our schools (survey questions attached). The voluntary survey asks a range of questions on student efficacy, persistence, safety, belonging and bullying. Lastly, demographic data is collected, including gender identity and race.

This is the first year questions were added regarding student sexual identity. As much as the information collected is anonymous, the district is evaluating including those questions in the future.

School-level responses are provided to schools and reported federally by our Title IX office. No student, teacher, or classroom-level results are shared. Results are shared by grade-level for all students (no disaggregation). Only school-wide results are disaggregated by gender and race. Our team works diligently to maintain the privacy and anonymity of every respondent.

This year was the first time schools had an opportunity to review and work with the data, and we are in the early stages of determining what that work will look like."

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