CONCORD — Parents who do not want their children to take non-academic surveys would need to opt out of participating under legislation endorsed by a key House committee.
The bill (HB 1459) would undo a state law adopted in 2017 that required a group administering a survey to get parents’ approval before the surveys were distributed to students. If the parents said no or didn’t respond, their children did not receive the surveys.
Advocates for the proposed bill maintain that nonprofit groups need information from these surveys to receive federal grants, which is difficult under the current law.
The only survey given to all students is the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which the Centers for Disease Control submits to schools across the country. Parents still are able to request that their students not be included in the test.
Among the organizations promoting the bill are New Futures, the New Hampshire Behavioral Health Collaborative and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The House Education Committee approved, 11-8, an amended version of the bill that strengthens notification requirements to the parents and allows them to opt out of the surveys either by letter or email.
Rep. Ralph Boehm, R-Litchfield, said that because many of the surveys ask for personal information, parents’ approval should be necessary.
“I care about parents’ rights. It is time this body stands up for parents and children for once,” Boehm said.
Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, a retired principal, said elementary school students often don’t even bring these surveys home to their parents because they trust the teacher.
“A parent deserves the right to be able to say yes or no, I want my child to be participating in that,” Ladd said.
“We are taking a huge responsibility of the parent and throwing it on the ground.”
In other matters, the House education panel endorsed a bill (HB 1306) that would repeal the state law permitting a public school district to allow recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
“This repeals the permission for schools to have what the U.S. Supreme Court has already said is unconstitutional many times,” said Rep. Stephen Woodcock, D-Center Conway.
The committee vote 12-6 in favor.
The panel also recommended killing legislation that would go in the opposite direction (HB 1334) and allow a moment of silence in public schools and permit religious clubs to receive taxpayer support.
“There seems to be an anti-religion movement in some corners, and I am very concerned about it,” said Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro.
Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, said killing the bill was not an attack on religion.
“I think this upholds our separation of church and state and provides for our students to continue to take advantage of what schools already have to do,” Luneau said.
The vote to recommend killing the measure was was 15-3.
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