Last February, Arlene Tessitore learned that her two middle school daughters, ages 13 and 14, were given a survey in school that asked, among others, the following questions:
- Have you ever tried to kill yourself?
- Have you ever sniffed glue, or breathed the contents of spray cans, or inhaled any paints?
- With how many people have you had sexual intercourse?
- Have you ever had oral sex?
There were questions about condoms, birth control pills, and things too explicit to mention here.
Tessitore was upset, as were her daughters. The Fitchburg, Mass., school district hadn't notified her about the survey and students weren't given a choice about whether to take it or not.
When Tessitore complained to school officials, she was told that they hadn't received her consent form, and if parental consent forms weren't returned to the school, consent was assumed. They called it "passive consent." But Tessitore said she never received such a form in the first place.
According to FOX News and the Worcester Telegram, the "Youth Risk Behavior Survey" was administered by a local social services agency, but originated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the help of the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute, a complaint was filed with the state Department of Education. Over the summer, the Fitchburg school district adopted a new policy for such cases. Signed parental consent will be required whenever schools collect personal information from students in eight specific areas, including sexual behavior, psychological problems of the student or the student's family, and political beliefs. "Passive consent" will no longer be considered valid.
In addition, and perhaps most important, the "Youth Risk Behavior Survey" will no longer be given in the Fitchburg school district. The local newspaper reports that the only surveys Fitchburg students will take will pertain to after-school programs.
This may be a victory in just one school district, but it's a victory because of just one mom. More power to her.