Non-Academic Surveys (SB 43, 2017)

Senate Bill 43 provides that no student shall be required to volunteer or submit to a non-academic survey or questionnaire without written consent of a parent or legal guardian. The bill also creates an exception to this requirement for the youth risk behavior survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cornerstone supports SB 43.

SB 43 is a result from the study committee on HB 206 in 2015. During the study committee, several people objected to “informed parental consent” when surveys are given to children. One of their arguments centered around the potential for losing grant funding if parents had to submit written permission for their children to participate in these invasive surveys. It’s important to note that parents are required to submit permission slips for field trips or to take Tylenol for a headache. It will take some extra effort to get permission from parents in order for their children to fill out the survey, but it is well worth the effort.

Prior testimony from Jon DiPietro, an expert in data security, dispelled the myth that this information is anonymous. Not only is it not anonymous, there are questions that specifically identify the student in order to track their answers over several years.

In past hearings, legislators heard from New Hampshire parents who were upset by the invasive surveys given to their children ​for which they never received notification. ​Parents were even more concerned that the disturbing questions could drum up repressed emotions or trauma, and if they were not aware of the survey, they were then unable to discuss it with their children.

There should never be a license to void privacy rights to collect personal data for researchers or other government bureaucrats.

Public administrators and bureaucrats will always be asking for things that will make their job “easier” or for “a little more money.”

Essentially, “opt out” makes the assumption an entire family voluntarily gives up their right to privacy. This is wrong.

In the private sector when it comes to surveys, industry standards and best management practices require “opt in” as the standard. There is no justification to carve out a special standard for schools when it comes to the issue of parental rights and privacy.

For an example of an invasive survey, please see the latest one from the University of New Hampshire:

For these reasons, we urge you to vote “ought to pass” on SB 43.