'Heterosexual Questionnaire' Spurs Debate At Wisconsin High School

Principal calls survey 'an exercise in compassion and understanding that did not work out real well.'

"What do you think caused your heterosexuality?"

"If you have never slept with someone of your same gender, then how do you know you wouldn't prefer it?"

Questions from an underground sex survey from the 1950s? Try from last month. School administrators at Port Washington High School in Port Washington, Wisconsin, have promised to take action after angry parents complained about a "Heterosexual Questionnaire" that was approved by two teachers and distributed to hundreds of students in an attempt to give them a sense of how gay/lesbian students feel, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

About 400 of the school's 930 students received the survey on April 25, the day before the national Day of Silence, an annual event co-sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (see "Day Of Silence Staged To Combat Gay-Student Discrimination"). They were told to submit written answers to the survey and discuss it in class.

The 10-question survey included queries such as "Your heterosexuality doesn't offend me as long as you don't try to come on to me, but why do so many heterosexuals try to seduce others to their orientation?," "Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?," and "Considering the battering, abuse and divorce rate associated with heterosexual coupling, why would you want to enter into that kind of relationship?" It was distributed by a student organization and was used in a full-class-period discussion, according to the paper, which said the school's principal, Duane Woelfel, did not approve its distribution.

Both Woelfel and the president of the local school board, Patty Ruth, said they thought the survey was inappropriate and that proper authorization was not given before it was used in classrooms. Woelfel, who was not aware of the survey until a parent gave him a copy the day after it was distributed, said he's received complaints from about two dozen parents and community members.

"The message that really needs to go out at this point is that this administration will ensure that this type of survey will never go out again," Ruth said.

That wasn't harsh enough for parent Lisa Krier, who on Monday called for the two teachers to be disciplined, labeling the survey a form of sexual harassment by teachers against students. "If somebody doesn't call them on it, it will continue," Krier said.

The Day of Silence is a national student-led event aiming to eliminate harassment of non-heterosexual students. As part of that day's events, Woelfel said the school's Students for Unity visited classrooms, distributed the surveys and led discussions. Woelfel said that the group's goal of trying to prevent harassment of all people with "alternative lifestyles" is good but that the survey was not appropriate, according to the paper.

Questions such as "When did you decide you were heterosexual" and "To whom have you disclosed your heterosexuality? How did they react?" were meant to give heterosexuals a sense of what it's like to be gay or lesbian. Woelfel called the survey an "exercise in compassion and understanding that did not work out real well."