Senate Panel Approves Measure Creating Opt-Out System for Student Surveys

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TRENTON – A bill to enable school districts to more easily collect data from students was approved by the Senate Education Committee Thursday.  The bill (S-1696) would permit students to participate in voluntary surveys if the district sends prior written notification to the students’ parents.

The measure would help remove some of the barriers that impede New Jersey’s ability to collect data on public health and safety issues affecting the state’s student population, particularly data needed to comply with federal reporting requirements or to help obtain grants.  Numerous non-profit agencies and federal grantees have halted their surveys or are seriously struggling to comply with the provisions of the current statutes.

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Under current law, a school district is required to receive written informed consent from a student’s parent or legal guardian prior to administering certain academic or non-academic surveys, assessments, analyses or evaluations to its students.  This bill would amend this provision of the law to require that school districts obtain written consent only if students are required to complete the survey, assessment, analysis or evaluation.

Under the bill’s provisions if a survey or assessment is voluntary, a student will be permitted to participate as long as the district sends prior written notification to the student’s parent or guardian.  The bill would require that the notification to parents include detailed information on the nature of the inquiry and also indicate that failure to respond to the notice indicates approval of the student’s participation, essentially creating an opt-out system for voluntary inquiries.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for approval.


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