In January, parents in Ridgewood, N.J., filed their second lawsuit against the school district about a second nosy questionnaire given to schoolchildren. Seventh- and eighth-graders were required to answer 55 personal questions about their use of illegal drugs and alcohol, sexual and illegal behavior, then write their names on the survey and turn it in for credit.
Here are some questions asked in that New Jersey survey:
"Are there guns in your home or the homes of your friends?"
"Do you often think about yourself in negative terms (stupid, worthless, unlovable, etc.)?"
"Are you engaging in risky sexual behavior (multiple partners, no protection from STDs or unwanted pregnancy, etc.)?"
The survey also required children to inform on their own family's misbehavior. A typical question was, "Do you have a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle who is an alcoholic?" This survey was given even though litigation was already pending about a 156-question self-incriminating survey given in the same Ridgewood schools in 1999. The earlier survey asked students as young as age 12, "How many times, if any, in the last 12 months have you used LSD?"; "Have your ever tried to kill yourself?"; and how many times have you "stolen something from a store?" or "damaged property just for fun?"
In December 2001, the U.S. Department of Education determined that the giving of this survey without prior written parental consent violated the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. The same month, the parents won their appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, enabling them to go forward with discovery to get all the facts out on the table about nosy questionnaires in Ridgewood.
Parents' persistence also persuaded New Jersey to pass the Student Survey Act requiring schools to obtain informed written parental consent before giving surveys or tests that ask for information about political affiliations, potentially embarrassing mental and psychological problems, sexual behavior and attitudes, illegal or self-incriminating behavior, or critical appraisals of family members. The bill was vetoed by New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman in 2000, but it was repassed and signed into law by the New Jersey governor in 2002. Despite parental complaints, despite adverse rulings from the federal appeals court and the U.S. Department of Education, despite federal and state laws, the public school establishment is determined to continue this abuse of children in the classroom. Schoolchildren deserve greater protection of their privacy than terrorists.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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