Student survey-permission bill OK’d on party lines

TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee released by a 3-2 vote along party lines a bill that would enable students to voluntarily take a survey distributed by schools without their parents’ permission, so long as the district sent notification to them  beforehand.

Democratic Sens. Teresa Ruiz,  Shirley Turner and Jim Beach voted yes, while Republican Sens. Michael Doherty and Diane Allen voted no.

Presently, schools can’t provide surveys to students unless they have their parents’ authority. However, bill S454, sponsored by Sens. Turner and Joe Vitale, would allow students to take surveys if they desire.

Turner said that sometimes, permission slips for such surveys, which cover various topics related to sexuality, political affiliations, alcohol use, and other subjects, get lost in the shuffle, especially in households where parents work multiple jobs and don’t have the time to tend to all of their children’s needs.

“The problem now is we’re not getting the data,” Turner said about survey participation.

The bill adds language to the survey permission slip, such as one item that reads “notification that failure to respond indicates approval of participation in the survey, assessment, analysis or evaluation.”

But various family values groups opposed the bill, likening it to an assault on parents’ rights.

New Jersey Family First called the bill unnecessary, and said there should be an opt-out feature rather than an opt-in feature.

Another group, Eagle Forum, call such surveys “controversial, intrusive and nosy,” and said they could lead to litigation by parents.

However, Turner emphasized the voluntary nature of the bill.

“If they don’t choose to participate, that’s their prerogative,” she said.

Student survey-permission bill OK’d on party lines