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Parental Consent Requested for 2004 Minnesota Student Survey

January 30, 2004

From the Minnesota Department of Education

TO: Superintendents
FROM: Cheri Pierson Yecke, Ph.D., Commissioner
DATE: January 30, 2004
RE: Minnesota Student Survey - Prior Parental Consent

This memorandum serves to clarify some issues surrounding the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS). A number of school districts and parents have contacted the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) about what is required under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and parental consent as it relates to MSS. This memorandum supersedes all previous correspondence issued by MDE regarding the MSS and parental consent.

On February 7, 2003, the United States Department of Education (USDOE) sent the state and local education agencies (LEAs) a memorandum outlining some of the federal changes as it relates to the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I have attached the memorandum for your use and referral.

The PPRA requires LEAs to obtain prior written parental consent before minor students are required to participate in any USDOE funded survey, analysis or evaluation that reveals information concerning one or more of the following protected information:

1. political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the studentís parent;
2. mental or psychological problems of the student or the studentís family;
3. sex behavior or attitudes;
4. illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demanding behavior;
5. critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6. legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians and ministers;
7. religious practices, affiliations or beliefs of the student or studentís parent;
8. income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).

The MSS asks questions in one or more of the above topics and is funded in part by the USDOE. Although students may choose not to participate in the survey or not answer specific questions, prior written consent from the parent (or the student if 18 years of age or older or emancipated) is required before the MSS is administered this year.

For other surveys that elicit the above protected information that are not funded in whole or part by the USDOE, prior written consent is not required, but parents have the right to opt out of such surveys. Parents also have the right to inspect any such surveys, and to inspect the instructional materials used in such surveys.

In addition, all LEAs are required to develop and adopt policies - in consultation with parents - concerning student privacy consistent with the PPRA as amended by the NCLB. See the attached February 7, 2003 memo from the USDOE, pages 3 - 6, regarding general notification of parental rights.

A sample letter seeking active parental consent for participation in MSS is provided below. If you have questions about MSS, please contact:

Sample letter to parents or guardians:

Our school district participates in the Minnesota Student Survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Education. The survey asks information of our 6th, 9th, and 12th grade students. Our students are taking the survey on (insert date here).

The survey is anonymous, confidential and voluntary. Parents must give consent before their children can participate in the survey, pursuant to the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRAA). A copy of PPRA and the consent form is attached. This form must be turned in before (insert date here).

The survey is an important measurement tool that helps us hear from our youth about health and social factors that affect their learning, growth and development. The survey does ask sensitive questions and raises issues including mental and psychological issues, bullying, fighting, and illegal activities. It also asks about how religion plays a part in studentsí choices regarding chemical use. The 9th and 12th grade version includes questions about sexual behavior and attitudes.

Again, please return the consent form attached before (insert date here). If you should have any questions, please contact (insert contact name here).

Sample consent form for parents or guardians:

I/We, (insert name here), as the parent(s) or legal guardian of (insert name here), consent to allowing (insert name here) school to administer the Minnesota Student Survey on (insert date here). I understand by signing this form that I/we understand that the child named above will participate under the school districtís standing policy.

cc: SDFS


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