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Roy teacher suspended over dating survey returns to classroom

ROY — A Roy High School teacher who was suspended after distributing a survey in class on risky dating behaviors returned to the classroom Friday.

Candace Thurgood, 51, had come under scrutiny after the school received complaints about a survey distributed during a lesson in a college-credit class called Adult Roles. The course also includes financial literacy.

The 30-question survey titled "Know Thyself," which originated in a 1980s Dear Abby column, asked whether students have had abortions, been kissed while lying down, or if they had tried alcohol, pot or ecstasy.

Officials from the Weber School District said in a statement Friday there appears to have been no ill intent behind the survey, which "was given outside the approved curriculum for this course." Thurgood had been using the survey for several years to allow students to conduct a self-assessment, according to the statement.

"Even though topics such as human sexuality are discussed as part of the curriculum, state and federal laws prohibit administering surveys to students that cause a student to reveal information about the student’s sexual behavior, orientation or attitudes, or illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating or demeaning behavior," the statement said.

The school district indicated that appropriate corrective action would be taken against Thurgood, but did not specify what that would be. Additionally, the district is taking steps to ensure the survey doesn't surface in class materials again.

"We are also having discussions with our staff, as well as reviewing our training procedures, to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. Even as educators, we can all learn from mistakes and become better because of them," the statement continued.

Meanwhile, a handful of former students who were supportive of Thurgood gathered at the school Friday morning for a rally. They said they were delighted about the news.

Kelby Nielsen, who graduated from Roy High more than 10 years ago, said Thursday night that he was organizing the rally to return the support Thurgood had given him as a student.

"She takes that time with each student, no matter what," Nielsen said. "She creates relationships that are unbreakable."

According to her faculty bio on the school's website, Thurgood has been teaching at the school for 24 years. During that time, she's served as the adviser for the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization and student government, and she's worked in the school's Royal Tots Preschool.

Nielsen said he was surprised to learn earlier this week that Thurgood was at the center of an investigation over the survey. He remembers taking a similar survey when he was a junior years ago.

"It was kind of a platform," Nielsen said. "It was a way for her to know what really needed to be focused on and how far her students were in experimenting with the sexual side, or drugs, or things like that."

Weber School District spokesman Lane Findlay noted that while parents were required to sign consent forms for their teens to take the class, Thurgood never obtained proper consent for the survey questions, which he says is required by law.

While action regarding school personnel is not public, it can range anywhere from instructional counseling to termination.

That's part of why Nielsen decided to show some extra support for his former teacher.

"She needs to see that people love and support her and care for everything she's done," he said.

Nielsen organized the rally via Facebook, setting the time for the start of school Friday.

In the statement from the district, school officials said they "appreciate the public support for Thurgood. She is well-liked and respected at Roy High by her current and former students."

Still, the statement continued, "teachers are held to high standards and must teach within the approved course curriculum and within the bounds of the law."

Contributing: Caitlin Burchill