Last week I was sent an email by an alert parent who had taught her child well. The child was in a Careers class and given an assignment that was to be graded, asking students to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements. About 10% of the test involved religious questions such as these:
- I will take my children to religious services often.
- I have taught a religious class or been active in my religion.
- I believe in a god who answers prayers.
- I give time or money to my religion.
- I pray about my problems.
- I believe that grace should be said before meals.
- I believe there is life after death.
- I read religious writings often.
- I believe that people were created to look like the creator.
- If I ask, my sins will be forgiven.
The student took out a cell phone and snapped shots of the exam. Here’s one page.
The student in this situation actually had the knowledge to cross out all the religious questions and not answer them. This was someone who had been well trained by informed parents.
On it’s face, it seemed like this was a violation of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) law. In the end, this assessment was only personal for the students to reflect on what they believe, and not graded except for participation. The teacher has informed the parent that this wasn’t transmitted or uploaded anywhere.
He explained that State and District Standard 1.A. requires him to help students identify their values, interests, and personalities and how they affect their career choices but he agreed to investigate another survey to cover this subject in the future. He also spoke to the students and made it clear that if they ever felt uncomfortable with any personal questions, they wouldn’t be forced to answer those questions. Kudos to the teacher for taking that step and agreeing to look for another assessment.
If you are unaware of yours and your children’s rights, this is a link to the Utah FERPA law section that discusses what has to have parental permission to be covered in school.
Here is a part of the section which is relevant. I encourage you to discuss the specific points with your children so they aren’t caught off guard at school or forced to do something they know they shouldn’t be made to do. This situation above was a great situation to allow this child to assert their rights and will give confidence for the next time a situation arises.
53A-13-302. Activities prohibited without prior written consent — Validity of consent — Qualifications — Training on implementation.
(1) Except as provided in Subsection (7), Section 53A-11a-203, and Section 53A-15-1301, policies adopted by a school district or charter school under Section 53A-13-301 shall include prohibitions on the administration to a student of any psychological or psychiatric examination, test, or treatment, or any survey, analysis, or evaluation without the prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian, in which the purpose or evident intended effect is to cause the student to reveal information, whether the information is personally identifiable or not, concerning the student’s or any family member’s:
(a) political affiliations or, except as provided under Section 53A-13-101.1 or rules of the State Board of Education, political philosophies;
(b) mental or psychological problems;
(c) sexual behavior, orientation, or attitudes;
(d) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;
(f) religious affiliations or beliefs;
(g) legally recognized privileged and analogous relationships, such as those with lawyers, medical personnel, or ministers; and
(h) income, except as required by law.
(2) Prior written consent under Subsection (1) is required in all grades, kindergarten through grade 12.
(3) Except as provided in Subsection (7), Section 53A-11a-203, and Section 53A-15-1301, the prohibitions under Subsection (1) shall also apply within the curriculum and other school activities unless prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian has been obtained.
(a) Written parental consent is valid only if a parent or legal guardian has been first given written notice, including notice that a copy of the educational or student survey questions to be asked of the student in obtaining the desired information is made available at the school, and a reasonable opportunity to obtain written information concerning:
(i) records or information, including information about relationships, that may be examined or requested;
(ii) the means by which the records or information shall be examined or reviewed;
(iii) the means by which the information is to be obtained;
(iv) the purposes for which the records or information are needed;
(v) the entities or persons, regardless of affiliation, who will have access to the personally identifiable information; and
(vi) a method by which a parent of a student can grant permission to access or examine the personally identifiable information.
(b) For a survey described in Subsection (1), written notice described in Subsection (4)(a) shall include an Internet address where a parent or legal guardian can view the exact survey to be administered to the parent or legal guardian’s student.