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Florida misses own deadline, yet to release results from its new teen health survey

State rejected federal youth survey, called it 'inflammatory' and 'sexualized'
Posted at 5:03 PM, Nov 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-30 17:04:03-05

What happened to Florida's newly created teen health survey? That's a question we've been asking for months.

This summer, Florida's Department of Education (FDOE) was scheduled to release results from its new voluntary teen survey after it was distributed to students earlier this year.

However, those results never came, and four months later there is still nothing.

"Why are the results of this newly created Florida survey so important," Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone recently asked Dr. Lawrence Friedman with the University of Miami Health System.

"To see exactly what our Florida youth are experiencing," he said.

Friedman specializes in adolescent medicine. For years, he relied on the CDC's voluntary youth risk behavior survey to spot trends, compare Florida teen behavior to youth across the country and determine how to treat young patients at a higher risk of engaging in risky behavior.

But last year, Florida announced it would no longer participate in the federal study known as the Youth Risk Behavior Study (YRBS). At the time, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz called the federal study "inflammatory and sexualized."

The YRBS is a voluntary questionnaire that has long been used by states to measure potentially dangerous behavior among teens in the U.S. Questions focus on a range of topics, from drug use and sexual behavior to violence, exercise and nutrition.

After rejecting the federal study, Diaz announced Florida would create its own youth survey.

This summer, we obtained a copy through a public records request.

We found Florida's teen survey focused more on the state's new resiliency standards instead of risky teen behavior like sex, drugs and violence.

"I have been wanting to see the results of this survey and what we can glean from it because I was concerned," explained Caitlyn Clibbon, the director of community and healthcare services for Disability Rights Florida.

Clibbon was a member of the state's workgroup that helped create the state's new survey. In previous interviews, she told us how she raised several concerns about the new survey and how it focused too much on resiliency and character traits then actual teen behavior.

Despite her concerns, the state which contracted with the University of South Florida to create the survey, moved forward. This spring, the survey was distributed to select high schools.

It's unclear which high schools received the voluntary survey since the FDOE refused to release that information to us citing the information was exempt from public disclosure due to trade secrets.

To date, Clibbon hasn't heard a thing about how students responded to the survey.

"It's radio silence. Maybe the results on the resiliency standards are not as desirable as they (FDOE) would have liked," she theorized when asked if there would be any reason the state would want to delay publishing the results.

A spokesperson from FDOE sent us an email in September stating they were working with the University of South Florida to compile and review survey results.

Despite multiple requests, they haven’t responded to us since.

Without results, youth advocates are left to wonder what Florida's new teen survey shows about teen behavior and resiliency and why the state has yet to make it public.

"I would love to be proved wrong and see that this is a great survey, providing very good information, but right now it's providing us no information," Clibbon said.

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