|Back to June Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 197||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JUNE 2002|
Desperately Seeking Dirt in Alaska|
Bill would gut ban on nosy questions
ANCHORAGE, AK - Public school and health officials are pushing legislation to repeal a 1999 state law requiring prior written parental consent for students to participate in surveys requesting personal information. The Anonymous Survey Bill (HB 408) would require schools to give parents two weeks' written notice of an impending survey, allowing them the option of denying permission for their child's participation. If parents fail to contact the school in writing, consent would be considered "implied," and the child would be given the survey. HB 408, which has already passed the Alaska House, also allows students to refuse to participate in a questionnaire or survey.
Alaska educrats and public health officials want to give public school students as young as 11 the invasive and controversial Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to determine how many are using drugs and alcohol, having sex or engaging in other "risky" behaviors. The YRBS has caused an uproar in several states and has provided the basis for implementing the Centers for Disease Control's sexually explicit Programs That Work (PTW), which have been described by parents, educators, state legislators and pro-family activists as "pornographic."
Officials complain that, due to Alaska's parental consent law, "We haven't been able to conduct the student surveys we need to gather solid community-wide data." They assert that most parents have no objection to the schools quizzing their 11-and 12-year-olds about intimate and self-incriminating matters, and imply that they are just too lazy to bother returning the consent forms. If legislators would only pass HB 408, they insist, the "implied consent" would net them the information they need to provide the right government programs to help students avoid drugs, alcohol, etc..
An "Opinion Piece" in the Anchorage Times (5-08-02) refutes this position. By eliciting enough intimate information from students through the YRBS, it contends, state health and education officials "may get hundreds of thousands of federal dollars to bloat their already bloated and inefficient bureaucracy," but that "history shows [the dollars] don't result in effective prevention programs."
Alaska schoolchildren took the YRBS in 1995, the author points out and, evidently, no successful preventive programs resulted. "Why is at-risk behavior higher now than before 1995?" the author asks, then explains, "you don't get reliable data when you ask kids embarrassing and compromising questions."