Senate passes SB196, student privacy now at risk

SB 196, relative to non-academic surveys administered to students in school, has passed the State Senate 13-10 on a party-line vote (with Democrats in the majority, and Sen. Fuller Clark absent). This bill switches the parental consent requirement for non-academic surveys administered in school from opt-in to opt-out.

Supporters of the bill claimed that the “opt-in” policy was resulting in low response rates for non-academic surveys, yielding low-quality data for researchers. Senate Democrats today gave researchers precedence over parental rights and protection of children’s privacy.

In 2017 the legislature protected student privacy and parental rights by passing a law giving parents the right to “opt-in” before a non-academic survey could be administered to their children in school. 

SB196 seeks to roll back this law, making it an “opt-out” policy. That is, if a parent doesn’t actively say NO, the school will administer the survey to the student.

In nearly an hour of speeches before the Senate vote Thursday, February 14th, supporters of the bill talked about everything except the need for schools to find ways to work more closely with parents. SB 196 sends parents the wrong message.  There is no valid reason to switch back to an opt-out policy.

If the Senate respected student privacy and parental rights, it would have rejected SB 196. Clearly there are ulterior motives for changing this policy. And in the end, students and parents are the victims.

The House will get the bill shortly, and Cornerstone will be watching. You’d better believe we will be including this Senate roll-call vote in our 2019 legislative scorecard.

UPDATE: SB 196 will have a hearing in the New Hampshire House Education Committee on Wednesday, April 3, at 1 p.m.