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Education Reporter

Oregon Governor Nixes
Popular Parental Rights Bill

SALEM, OR-Oregonians were shocked on June 30 when Governor John Kitzhaber vetoed H.B. 2569, the Student Rights to Privacy bill that had passed both houses of the legislature by large margins. The Senate vote was 26-4 and the House vote was 35-23.

The amended bill, sponsored by Rep. Ron Sunseri (R), states that school districts "shall guard the privacy of students, their parents and families against unnecessary or unlawful governmental intrusion, and support parental involvement in the education of their children. . . ."

H.B. 2569 would have established the right of parents or guardians to examine materials used in connection with any survey, analysis, or evaluation. Students under the age of 18 would not be required to submit to any survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals personal information such as political affiliations, sexual behavior and attitudes, illegal behavior, family income, or religious beliefs, unless the school receives prior written parental consent.

H.B. 2569 was modeled after the federal "Parents Rights Restoration Amendment," 20 U.S. Code § 1232h, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994. 20 U.S. Code § 1232h applies only to federally funded programs, and federal funding becomes next to impossible to trace once it is mingled with the much larger amount of state funds used in the public schools. H.B. 2569 was designed to give students and parents the same protection against abuses with state funds.

Despite easy passage by both Houses and the approval of the Oregon School Board Association, the Oregon Department of Education, and the Oregon Education Association during work sessions in the House Education Committee, Governor Kitzhaber vetoed the bill he had been expected to sign. Only four days before the veto, Danny Santos, the education aide to the Governor, said, "As long as it meets all legal requirements, we see no problem with it. The powers that be seem to be fine with the bill. . . ."

Nevertheless, H.B. 2569 joined the list of failed student right-to-privacy efforts. Despite the fact that federal student privacy legislation has existed for federally funded programs since 1978, only 17 student right-to-privacy cases made it through the court system between 1984 and 1994. This failure usually results from the inability of the plaintiffs to trace federal funding through the school budget.

"It is appalling that our children will continue to be subjected to the never-ending onslaught of inappropriate and many times invasive and sexually explicit surveys and questionnaires without the parent's knowledge or consent," Rep. Sunseri said.

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