As we reported on Monday , the Assembly Education Committee approved a bill , A2421, that amends a 2001 law regarding surveys that schools can have students participate in. The law as written and passed in 2001 requires that parents give their written consent prior to surveys being administered. The bill that amends the current law requires only parental notification.
The proponents of the bill want to allow schools to employ a scamming tactic referred to as “negative consent.” That’s the technique that telemarketers use when they offer you a product or service for “free” for 30 days. If you don’t take affirmative action to cancel the “free trial” your credit card is charged monthly until you catch up with the scammers and cancel.
The current law allows students to be surveyed about the following topics, if their parents consent in writing:
(1) political affiliations;
(2) mental and psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the student or the student’s family;
(3) sexual behavior and attitudes;
(4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior;
(5) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom a respondent has a close family relationship;
(6) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
(7) income, other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under a program; or
(8) social security number.
Evidently parents have not been consenting in sufficient numbers to satisfy those who want to use the survey results to apply for federal money and/or to design programs to address the information gathered in the surveys. Students need written permission from their parents to go on field trips, but it is hard to get those permission slips back, the sponsors of this legislation say. It’s even harder to get parental permission for these surveys. Small wonder.
As Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, the Education Committee Chair, said during the hearing, proponents of this legislation have been trying to amend this law to allow negative consent for at least 12 years. In order to gain passage in commitee this time they amended the bill to omit questions about political affiliations, sexual behaviors and social security numbers from being asked. The also included a clause prohibting the results from being used for non-educational marketing purposes.
You can listen to the Assembly Education Committee’s hearing on the bill here.
Now that the bill has, after at least 12 years, successfully gotten through the Education Committee, the full Assembly gets to vote on it. If it passes the full Assembly, it gets sent back to the Senate for the amended version to be voted on. If it passes that process, it goes to Governor Christie for his signature, veto or conditional veto.
The Assembly’s next voting session on next Thursday, February 21st. The board hasn’t been posted yet. If the bill is not on the schedule for the 21st, it can also be voted on in March or any other voting session for the rest of this year. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver decides what bills get voted on in the Assembly. Oliver’s contact information can be found here.
Contact information for all members of the Assembly can be found here.
MMM encourages you to let your voice be heard on this legislation and to pass this post on to all parents of school aged children in New Jersey and anyone else you think might be interested.