Current Alaska law requires school districts to obtain active permission from parents before they administer student surveys asking about sex, alcohol and drug use and personal and private family issues. Senate Bill 101 changes that law by giving these surveys to students unless parents say otherwise. Explicitly tell the school no or your 13-year-old gets asked if her partner used a condom the last time she had intercourse.
Not enough parents, it turns out, are turning back in the permission slips. Too few kids taking the survey means federal dollars for prevention programs dry up.
The big assumption being made by advocates of this bill is that parents want their kids to be asked these private questions unless they actively opt out. That's a big assumption.
In California, a school asked elementary kids questions about touching their private parts. Parents were rightfully outraged but the Ninth Circuit Court put them in their place by stating that their right to control the sexual education of their kids "does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door."
According to black-robed elitists, the right of parents "to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs," is trumped by schools needing to pry into our kids lives.
Most people can agree that students today are exposed to and at risk of getting involved with drugs and alcohol, sexual activity and other risky behaviors. It is simply and unfortunately the lay of the land in today's schools.
Why are the permission slips not being returned? Although some parents may never see the forms, maybe, just maybe, they aren't being returned because those parents don't actually want their kids being asked intrusive questions. Do schools have similar problems getting other required consent forms back? What about permission slips for field trips or drug testing for athletes?
During testimony on SB101, a Kodiak school district administrator opposed to the bill noted that they were able to get close to 80 percent of the parents to turn in the permission slips for the risk survey. Parents' rights do not need to be trumped to get an adequate number.
The bottom line is that parents should have the first and final say regarding intrusive surveys. If schools want to increase the number of permission slips coming in, they should do a better job of convincing parents that it is worthwhile. The burden should not be placed on parents to opt out.
Unless parents' rights are treated on a par with other fundamental rights, the government will continue to demand more authority over our children. It's a direction that should be opposed.
Jim Minnery is president of the Alaska Family Council.
BY JIM MINNERY
Alaska Dispatch Publishing