National associations and researchers voice opposition to federal law that would limit surveys of students





WASHINGTON, D.C. — Students should not have to ask permission before participating in surveys, argued a group of national associations and research institutions in June.

The Family Privacy Protection Act would require written parental consent before minors could participate in surveys or questionnaires funded entirely or in part by the government. Some have raised concerns that student media at schools that receive federal funding could be limited as well.

If passed, the federal act could limit the high school student media’s ability to interview and survey other students because most schools receive some funding from the government.

The bill passed in the House last year and is waiting for the Senate to take action. The groups argued the act would result in expenses none of the survey organizations could afford and would force them to shut down.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department have urged opposition to the bill along with 31 science, education and health organizations across the country, including the AIDS Action Council, the National Network for Youth and Northwestern University.

The group’s position claims the bill would “increase the cost and the difficulty of obtaining high quality federal data on risks to our nation’s children and youth, [and] create a roadblock in gathering information,” they said in a written statement. There is also a great deal of data indicating that many parents will fail to return the written permission forms, the group said.

“If federal research does not include these children, the data will be suspect, the samples will be skewed, and we will all be deprived of important information on which to base federal policies to protect children,” they said.

The bill would require written consent for surveys concerning parental political affiliation or beliefs, mental or psychological problems, sexual behavior or attitudes, illegal behavior and religious beliefs.


Fall 1996, reports