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Turner/Vitale Bill Will Help Schools More Easily Collect Vital Data From Students

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

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Joseph F. Vitale that would enable school districts to more easily collect vital data from students was approved by the Senate Education Committee today. 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 important to 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. In light of this, numerous non-profit agencies and federal grantees have halted their surveys or are seriously struggling to comply with the provisions of the current statutes.

“Requiring written approval for every survey or assessment given to students not only creates a burden on parents, but also impedes a school’s ability to comply with the myriad of federal and state requirements,” said Sen. Turner (D-Mercer).

“This simple change will help preserve a parent’s rights to determine what activities a child participates in, while also helping schools more effectively handle administrative requirements,” said Sen. Vitale (D-Middlesex).

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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