Magazine article Insight on the News

Surveys and Sweatshirts: Conservatives Applaud Two Victories in Court Cases concerning Student Rights. (Education)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Surveys and Sweatshirts: Conservatives Applaud Two Victories in Court Cases concerning Student Rights. (Education)

Article excerpt

A law enacted in New Jersey has elated conservative advocates. Outgoing Gov. Donald DiFrancesco signed a bill requiring public schools to obtain written consent from parents before issuing personal surveys to students.

The measure was prompted by an outcry in Ridgewood, N.J., over a 1999 survey that asked more than 2,000 middle- and highschool students about their sex partners, suicide attempts, LSD use and shoplifting activities, among other things. School officials claim the 156-question survey, developed by Search Institute, a respected research group, was voluntary and anonymous. Officials maintain they alerted parents to the survey on three occasions and made it available two months before it was given. Indeed, many Ridgewood parents supported the survey, according to local news reports.

But other parents felt they were not properly informed about the contents. And some students say they were told they would be marked absent if they didn't take the survey. One child, who was out sick the day of the survey, was instructed to take it the day he returned. Federal law already requires written parental consent for personal student surveys conducted with federal funds. The New Jersey law expands that requirement to any public-school survey, regardless of its funding source.

"It is reassuring to know that, as of today, no more students in New Jersey will be subjected to violations of their privacy rights simply because they go to public school]' says Carole Nunn, mother of a student who took the 1999 survey. The measure is "very important" and likely will be replicated soon in other state legislatures, adds Michael Schwartz, an official with Concerned Women for America. …

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