Both Senator Jeanne Dietsch (D) and now Representative Sue Mullen (D) of Bedford just voted to remove parental consent when children take non-academic surveys in school. I wrote about Senator Dietsch’s vote to remove parental consent when children take controversial surveys, after the New Hampshire Senate voted to repeal parental rights.
These two elected representatives are voting in such an extreme way and, counter to the majority in their district/s, that even the Union Leader editorialized about their big-government votes. (Is Bedford watching? Sending big-govt. libs to Concord)
Then they really outdid themselves.
The House voted to change the way schools get parents’ permission for non-academic student surveys. Under current law, parents have to opt-in for these surveys, which might ask kids about sensitive issues like their sexual history, mental health and drug use.
Democrats don’t like that. They want to change the law so that the surveys will be given unless parents opt out. Mullen, a retired teacher, spoke in favor of the change, saying the opt-in policy is a burden on schools.
Both Mullen and Dietsch voted for the change. We wonder if Bedford parents had any idea this was what they’d be getting from these two.
As I reported in my prior post, Ethical guidelines that govern research and assessments like these on children, require informed consent from human subjects. Parental consent should have been the norm, but it wasn’t. School administrators have been ignoring those ethical guidelines for a very long time.
In 2017 newly elected Governor Sununu signed the current law that added parental consent to non-academic surveys because so many parents where complaining about how they were not aware their children were being surveyed on subjects like, sexual activity, guns in the home, sexual identity and other highly sensitive subjects.
This information collected on children and shared with private survey companies, needs to be protected. Testimony given during SB196 by IT specialists confirmed that the questions asked of children can be used to track those children over time. That defies the argument that this information is anonymous. Any IT specialist will tell you that three data points can identify the person taking the survey. Identifying students based on some of the questions included in some of these surveys, make it easy to identify and track students over time.
In the field of Child Psychology, professionals must follow a code of ethics. That code of ethics requires informed consent when assessing children in this way. Informed consent protects a child’s personal information and any attempts to exploit the children who are being treated.
SB196’s attempt to remove parental consent exploits children who may not have the capacity to understand the importance of personal privacy.
Students in Bedford wrote their name on the surveys they took a few years ago. Thinking they were taking a test, students didn’t realize they could opt out of the survey and assumed they needed to write their names and unique pupil identifier on the survey. This kind of confusion among children is exactly why the current law needs to be upheld.
The attempt to repeal a good law fell down party lines with an exception of a few Democrats who understood the importance of protecting children. Here are the Democrats (and one Republican) who supported removing parental consent, while Republicans upheld (with the exception of a handful of Democrats) this important provision in state statute.
SB 196 now goes to Governor Sununu. It’s critical that Governor Sununu VETO SB 196 and uphold basic ethical practices when collecting controversial information on children and their families. If you haven’t called Governor Sununu’s office to request this VETO, please do so immediately.
In the future, ask candidates running for office how they would vote on this important issue. Would they vote to exploit children or, would they vote to protect children and parental rights?
Ann Marie Banfield works as a parental rights advocate in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can contact her at: [email protected]