Parental consent bill for school surveys moves forward

May 09, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

The House of Representatives has yet to vote on a bill that would require parental consent for students to participate in non-academic surveys.

A non-academic survey might try to evaluate a program, such as an anti-bullying initiative, or gauge student behaviors, such as the prevalence of drug abuse.

New Hampshire law already requires school districts to notify parents before any non-academic surveys so that parents may opt their children out of the survey.

SB 43, this year’s bill, goes a step further.  It requires written consent from a parent – an opt-in – before students participate in a non-academic survey.  

Bill supporters argue that non-academic surveys may ask personal questions about controversial topics; parents therefore have a right to decide whether their children will participate.

Bill supporters also note that SB 43 includes an exception for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a longstanding nationwide survey administered every two years.

Opponents of SB 43 argue that non-academic surveys are critical to evaluate student needs as well as program effectiveness.  Switching to an opt-in policy will almost certainly decrease participation, making results unreliable.

The House Education Committee is recommending an amendment to SB 43 that would add detail to the current law, but would not require an opt-in.  The full House will likely vote on SB 43, including that amendment, this month.

The legislature passed a similar bill last year, SB 320, but Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed the bill.

Do you think the state should require parents to opt-in to non-academic surveys?  Share your opinion in the comments below.

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