Governor vetoes bill requiring parental consent for surveys

NEW JERSEY — After more than a month of consideration,Gov. Christine Todd Whitman vetoed a bill that would have requiredschool districts to obtain parental consent before giving studentscertain types of surveys.

Assembly Bill 2351 was conditionally vetoed by Whitman on January18. A conditional veto allows the governor to tell the legislaturehow to alter a bill so that the governor will sign it if it isintroduced again. Whitman recommended that lawmakers change thebill to make parental consent to surveys implied unless objectedto in writing.

According to Tammy Happe, a legislative aide to the sponsorof the bill, Assemblyman E. Scott Garrett, the conditions wereput on the veto because Whitman believed that demanding that parentssign and return permission slips granting or refusing consentfor their child’s participation in school-administered surveyscould hurt research conducted by agencies like the Departmentof Education.

"I think the governor’s recommendations would not offerparents and children any more privacy and protection than theycurrently have in relation to intrusive surveys," Happe said.

Originally, the bill would have required school districts toobtain parental consent at least two weeks prior to conductingsurveys regarding students’ political affiliation, mental andpsychological problems, sexual behavior and attitudes, illegal,anti-social and self-incriminating behavior, income and SocialSecurity numbers.

The bill was introduced after parents complained about a surveyconducted by the Ridgewood school district in which students wereasked about sexual behavior, drug use and mental health.

Student press advocates were concerned that the bill couldrestrict student press freedom by limiting whom students couldinterview and the issues they could cover.

Happe said Garrett has not decided whether to introduce thebill again.

Whitman has since resigned from her position as governor andnow heads the Environmental Protection Agency. State Senate PresidentDonald T. DiFranceso is the current governor of New Jersey.

States introduce bills to restrict surveys Report, Fall 2000