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EDUCATION FOR A FREE NATION
105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318
952-361-4931 www.edwatch.org - edwatch@lakes.com

July 28, 2006
       
         Say No to Minnesota Student Survey      
                Districts must inform parents at the beginning of the school year
                                        
        EdWatch urges parents of public and private school students to say "no" to the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey (MSS).

        The Minnesota Student Survey will be administered between February and April of 2007. Parents must be offered an opportunity to opt their student(s) out of taking the MSS. Parents also have the right to review the survey. 

         A July 20, 2006 Minnesota Department of Education memo notified school districts of requirements under federal law (Pupil Privacy Protection Act - PPRA) that apply to the MSS, which questions students in 6th, 9th and 12th grades on their attitudes toward and use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. It inquires about their personal sexual behavior and attitudes.

        Districts are required to inform parents in writing at the beginning of the school year, of the specific or approximate dates during the school year when it will administer the survey(s) and they must provide an opportunity for the parent to opt his or her child out of participating. Thereafter, parents should be provided reasonable notification of the planned activities and surveys and be provided an opportunity to opt their child out, as well as an opportunity to review any pertinent surveys.

        Districts are required by federal law to give notice to parents when surveys of their children involve any of these issues:
1.      Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or studentís parent;
2.      Mental or psychological problems of the student or studentís family;
3.      Sex behavior or attitudes;
4.      Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
5.      Critical appraisals of others with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6.      Legally recognized privileged relationships, such as with lawyers, doctors, or ministers;
7.      Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or parents; or
8.      Income, other than as required by law to determine program eligibility.

        If your district is not sending written notification at the beginning of the school year to parents whose child will receive the MSS, or if the parents are not notified of their right to review the survey, the district is in violation of federal law.

        Here is one parent's response to the Minnesota Student Survey in 2001:
I am very opposed to this kind of questioning of our children. This survey really sounds like this: "We all know it is wrong, we all know your parents tell you not to, we all know our teachers say don't, but since you won't get in trouble, since you won't get caught, just tell us: is it 3 days? 5 days? Really, how often do you REALLY do it? WE KNOW YOU DO?! This is what it sounds like if you try real hard to imagine someone asking you very personal questions about your thoughts and behaviors. ...I think asking these questions to kids normalizes all of these behaviors, and what becomes familiar and normalized is not feared. Why do we want to make this normal for them? Why do we put carrying a gun to school, wanting to hit or beat someone up, smoking, taking drugs, running away, skipping school, suicide, all these issues, on a scale? Once -- one time -- for most of these issues is WRONG and ILLEGAL!!
        A recent study at Duke University's School of Business back's up this parent's fears. It found that asking questions can influence behavior (" Study: Surveys Influence Behavior"). "We ask people questions, and that does change behavior," said the study's co-author. He called the provocative effect "much greater than most of us would like to believe."

        A notification letter to parents signed by the principal and recommending the importance of participating in the survey has not necessarily been written by the principal at all, nor has he or she necessarily personally reviewed the survey. Principals sign form letters without having full knowledge of the details. School districts are not required to administer the Minnesota Student Survey. Students may at any time refuse to answer any and all questions.

Excerpts from the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey: Secondary Survey only:


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