Sex Surveys and Hotlines Put Children at Risk

March 14, 2023

Family Watch International has done much to alert parents and policymakers of the dangers to children found in the curricula of so-called “Comprehensive Sexuality Education” or “CSE” programs offered in schools. But non-curricular resources such as “hotlines” and invasive surveys can also pose a danger to the innocence of children and the rights of parents.



For example, controversy arose last year in both Barbados and Belize over a detailed survey administered by the Inter-American Development Bank or IDB. Students were asked if they agreed with statements like the following:


  • “I drink alcohol without parents’ approval.”
  • “I deliberately try to hurt or kill myself.”
  • “I think about sex too much.”
  • “I wish I were of the opposite sex.”


Parents in Barbados worried that such questions could plant “seeds” in children’s minds, and argued that it was “illegal” for their children to be “quizzed on such sensitive information” without parental permission. Belize’s Міnіѕtеr оf Еduсаtіоn, Сulturе, Ѕсіеnсе аnd Тесhnоlоgу, Frаnсіѕ Fоnѕеса, claimed that the section of over 100 questions with the “offensive” content was removed before the survey was administered in that country. However, remaining questions still asked for information about parents, raising concerns about privacy and anonymity and about how the data would be used.


Although the IDB survey was administered in schools, other such surveys are used outside of the school context or after the school day. For example, the “Umodzi Project” in Malawi was directed at “after-school teen clubs” for young people ages 10-19. This project sought to use a “gender synchronized approach” and “gender conscious practice curriculum” (GCP) to enhance “life skills and sexual and reproductive health programming.” Although the program’s “theory of change” said that its goals included “Reduced cases of sex amongst young people,” it treated as positive survey responses that “young people have a right to decide”:


  • “when to start having sex”
  • “when to have sex” and
  • “with who [sic] to have sex.”


Ironically, the program had very little effect with respect to intended “sexual health” knowledge—at least 88% already knew that condoms could be a tool “to prevent pregnancy and STIs” even before the program. It also did little to boost what most people would think of as “gender equality”—at least 93% already agreed that “a girl can be a head prefect or school captain.”


Some programs try to reach individual young people with information about sex directly. For example, “Tune Me” is an app designed for cell phones in at least seven African countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Zambia). Funded by UNFPA and the Ford Foundation, Tune Me “helps you make choices about your body, rights, sexual health, and love life” and “get answers to those hard-to-ask questions, tell your own stories, share your opinions and give advice to other young people”—all without parental knowledge or consent.


Similar programs have been found in the United States, and similar concerns have been raised. For example, in February, the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a non-profit legal organization specializing in parental rights and other civil liberties, sent a letter to the Superintendent and Trustees of the Santa Ana (California) Unified School District requesting that they immediately stop referring students to “crisis hotlines” via counselors or through posters in restrooms, school hallways and wellness centers.


The dangers of online chat rooms for minors have been well-documented. One chat room, TrevorSpace, is hosted by The Trevor Project, which asserts that its mission is “to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.” But when one mom of a gender-dysphoric child went undercover on the site, she “opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ of sexually perverse content, aggressive gender reassignment referrals, adults encouraging minors to hide their transition from their parents, and many troubled kids in need of psychological counseling.” PJI charged the site places “LGBTQ+ students in harms’ way of sexual predators by mixing minors with unvetted random adults in on-line chat rooms without parent knowledge or consent.”


Another mom went undercover at Teen Line, at a time when they advertise the availability of peer counselors—teens counseling teens. The counselor immediately quizzed her on her “age/grade/school/zip code.” The undercover mom asked questions about gender identity—and other identities: “What if I want to identify as a vampire cat?  Those are my two favorite things! … I watch a lot of vampire movies and I read vampire novels so I feel like I’m part vampire and I have a lot of cat traits like licking and purring.”


Her teen counselor was unfazed, assuring her, “You can identify however you want to identify!” PJI also accused one hotline of “telling students it’s ok to share their cell number on-line in chat spaces.”


In some cases, according to PJI, websites to which the schools refer students may feature “on-line questionnaires [that] give minors genders to choose from and ask them about their sexual attractions or practices.”


In the U.S., both the federal government and state governments (like that of California) have laws in place to protect the privacy and safety of schoolchildren, as well as protecting the right of parents to control their children’s upbringing and to be informed about their activities in school.


However, PJI is accusing the Santa Ana school district of violating—or at least evading the intent of—those laws, by giving referrals to online chat rooms and telephone hotlines which do not follow those laws and may put children at risk.


For example, U.S. federal law (20 U.S. Code § 1232h) prohibits students from being required to answer surveys requesting private information in a number of areas including “sex behavior or attitudes.”


Meanwhile, California’s Education Code (Section 51513) states, “No test, questionnaire, survey, or examination containing any questions about the pupil’s personal beliefs or practices in sex, family life, morality, and religion … shall be administered to any pupil in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, unless the parent or guardian of the pupil is notified in writing…”


The California Education Code also declares (Sec. 35183) that all students “have the constitutional right to be safe and secure in their persons at school.” In addition, it says that “the parents and guardians of pupils enrolled in public schools have the right and should have the opportunity, as mutually supportive and respectful partners in the education of their children within the public schools, to be informed by the school, and to participate in the education of their children…”


Concerned parents and citizens around the world should educate themselves about the risks of both Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and these dangerous hotlines, surveys and online chat rooms. Like the parents and citizens in Barbados, Belize and California, they should be prepared to confront school officials or other leaders who may be allowing children to be exposed to them.