HB206 was introduced last year by Rep. Ralph Boehm.  Thanks to Rep. Boehm, he understands the need to protect parental rights and private student data on children.

HB 206 as introduced would have required parental written consent prior to non-academic surveys being administered in our public schools.  Unfortunately while HB206 was working its way through the legislature, it was watered down and requiring “written consent” was removed.

HB206 was signed in to law requiring notification to parents when non-academic surveys would be administered, but we know that often times, parents never receive notification.  This is called passive consent.  A child may forget to give their parents the notification and when the school does not hear back from the parents, they go ahead and administer the survey.

HB206 also required there to be a “study committee” and they have met a few times to go over the problems parents have faced when their children completed an invasive survey.

There is a federal law that is supposed to protect parents and children when invasive surveys are given to students.  It is The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).   The PPRA requires parental written consent under certain conditions.  For instance, when the U.S. Department of Education funds the surveys and they are required by the school district, written consent must be given by parents before their children can complete the survey.

However many of these surveys do not come directly from the U.S. Dept. of Ed.  Some of them come from private companies or the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  If a survey comes from one of those organizations, the school district now has a loophole and does not have to seek parental written consent.

For years, I’ve heard from parents across the state who were angered that their children took one of these surveys without their knowledge or consent. I even had Bedford’s Superintendent tell me that because they did not “require” the students to take the Search Institute’s survey , they didn’t need to follow the federal law and seek parental written consent.  (Hence a loophole..it was voluntary versus required)

HB206 was introduced to close this loophole and require written consent from parents.  In other words, these surveys would be an “opt-in” versus an “opt-out.”

One parent and school board member from a NH school told the committee, a few weeks ago, about an incident that involved her son and a teacher who conducted an informal survey in school.

The children were asked to stand up and answer questions by moving a step forward or backwards.  As the students answered the questions, the rest of the class could see how their classmates answered the questions.  So much for anonymity.

It’s also important to know that in the world of data, it can take a total of three data points to identify a person.

Some of these questions were extremely invasive like, sex behavior, sexual identity, drug use, etc.  She did not mention that the teacher had informed the students of their 5th Amendment rights to self incrimination.  And the worst part of this exercise included the teacher taking pictures of the students after they would answer a question.

Today the Committee met again and listened to bureaucrats from different alcohol and drug abuse agencies.  They argued against requiring parental written consent from parents.

After their testimony, a few of the Committee members began asking questions and wondering why this would be such a burden on schools.  After all, schools require permission slips when students go on a field trip.

Then finally got to the bottom of all of this.  One of the bureaucrats mentioned that if they required parental consent, they would receive less participation from parents when they were surveying the students.   That could be a problem when applying for federal grant MONEY.

Parents first would be wise to always check the effectiveness of the abuse prevention programs in to their schools.  The D.A.R.E. program has come under fire for being ineffective at curbing alcohol and drug abuse.

In Columbine, the district where students murdered their fellow students in cold blood, they engaged in “death education.”  Columbine’s  “prevention” program fell under extreme scrutiny when students began reporting that they were contemplating suicide based on what they had learned in the “death education” classes.

In a “prevention” class, where they were supposed to prepare students for coping with death, there were unforeseen consequences.  Consequences that can be deadly to children.

Rep. Ken Weyler did ask one bureaucrat for information on the effectiveness of these programs in the NH schools.  After all, if they are going to survey children without parental knowledge or consent, then spend tax dollars on programs aimed at prevention, shouldn’t we at least know the money is being spent wisely?  Unfortunately the bureaucrat had data but no independent studies that they were effective.

I suppose we are supposed to simply accept the trampling of parental rights, and the tax dollars spent on programs that they cannot say are “effective” at lowering substance abuse, or curb “risky behaviors.”

Rep. Rick Ladd, read directly from the PPRA and reminded everyone that even the federal govt. passed a law trying to respect the rights of parents when their children were being surveyed.  Rep. Weyler questioned the effectiveness of the programs.  Rep. Barbara Shaw was bothered by some of the questions in these surveys but still felt they can be effective.  Rep. Wolf who opposed parental written consent in the original bill did not offer any comments at today’s hearing.

Senator Kevin Avard spoke passionately about protecting the privacy of students and more importantly the rights of parents to sign off when their children are surveyed.  He should be thanked by all parents throughout New Hampshire.

Rep. Balcom and Gile were not in attendance today.

After all of the discussion, the opposition to written parental consent boiled down to their concern for losing federal money.

The federal grants that come in to the state of New Hampshire require a certain percentage of “PARTICIPATION” from students.  If in state law, we require written consent from parents, they fear they will not get as many students participating in these surveys.  If they do not meet that threshold, they then fear they will not receive the grant money from the Feds.

As usual, this all boils down to money and greed. Parental rights are being sold, so we can bring our money back to our schools.

What can you do?
First write to the Committee members and tell them that you WANT WRITTEN CONSENT when these kinds of invasive surveys are given to our children.  We want this if the survey is “required or voluntary.”  We WANT AN OPT-IN POLICY, NOT an opt-out policy.

Our children’s data is NOT for sale.
Our parental rights are NOT for sale and it is up to OUR elected legislators to protect our fundamental rights.

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Ann Marie Banfield began volunteering as Cornerstone’s Education Liaison in 2009. As an education activist, she took her decade long research on education to Concord. Working with experts in education from across the country, she offers valuable insight into problems and successes in education. She holds a B.A. in Business Management from Franklin University in Columbus Ohio. Ann Marie and her husband have three children and reside in Bedford, NH.