Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

04/06/2009 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 130-STUDENT QUESTIONNAIRES AND SURVEYS                                                                                     
8:02:28 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO. 130,  "An  Act  relating to  questionnaires  and                                                               
surveys administered in the public schools."                                                                                    
8:02:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REBECCA ROONEY, Staff, Representative  Peggy Wilson, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  speaking on  behalf  of the  sponsor, provided  the                                                               
following testimony:                                                                                                            
     HB 130 will change  the parental consent requirement of                                                                    
     anonymous surveys  in schools  from active  to passive.                                                                    
     With   passive  consent   we   believe   we  get   good                                                                    
     representative   samples  that   can  serve   two  very                                                                    
     important  functions.   First, they  identify behaviors                                                                    
     in youth  both positive  and negative.   It  also helps                                                                    
     understand the  effectiveness of  the solutions  to the                                                                    
     previously identified issues and behaviors.                                                                                
     This  data  helps  policy  makers,  educators,  program                                                                    
     planners,  and parents  to better  understand important                                                                    
     health  and social  issues that  affect young  peoples'                                                                    
     chances of success.                                                                                                        
     Routine standardized  surveys such as the  national and                                                                    
     state  Youth  Risk  Behavior Survey  (YRBS),  which  is                                                                    
     conducted  by the  Centers  for  Disease Control  (CDC)                                                                    
     track  trends over  time.   They  also  help guide  and                                                                    
     evaluate important health and prevention programs.                                                                         
     State  and federal  grant programs  that rely  on these                                                                    
     surveys   include  tobacco   prevention  and   control,                                                                    
     obesity  prevention, diabetes,  heart disease,  stroke,                                                                    
     safe and  drug free schools, and  other substance abuse                                                                    
     prevention programs, injury  prevention, including both                                                                    
     from violence and suicide, HIV  and STD prevention, and                                                                    
     The current  active consent for anonymous  surveys over                                                                    
     burdens the  school system and  significantly increases                                                                    
     costs involved in conducting surveys.   It is estimated                                                                    
     that over 80  percent of the parents who  do not return                                                                    
     written permission for participation  in surveys is not                                                                    
     because  they  do not  want  their  child to  take  the                                                                    
     survey, but  because of  apathy, oversight,  or student                                                                    
     error.  This  bill will change the  current practice of                                                                    
     active  permission to  passive permission  so that  the                                                                    
     parent  has the  option  to  deny participation  rather                                                                    
     than the requirement to provide written permission.                                                                        
     Many schools  are unable to  use the data  they collect                                                                    
     because  there  are  not   enough  participants.    The                                                                    
     overall statewide  response rate for YRBS  for 2005 was                                                                    
     55  percent, which  made  it short  of  the 60  percent                                                                    
     required.   The state  was unable to  use the  data and                                                                    
     publish  the  report  since  the   data  would  not  be                                                                    
     representative of the high school population.                                                                              
     This bill  will address the concerns  about making sure                                                                    
     that  parents understand  the content  of the  surveys.                                                                    
     We   have   expanded   the  information   the   written                                                                    
     notification must  include to provide parents  with the                                                                    
     data they need to make  an informed decision on whether                                                                    
     to  opt  out  of  the  survey for  their  child.    The                                                                    
     notification must include:                                                                                                 
          1. The date the survey will be administered.                                                                          
          2. A description of [the content] of the survey.                                                                      
          3. Sponsor of the survey.                                                                                             
          4. Point of contact in the school district for                                                                        
             the survey.                                                                                                        
          5. Notice of the opportunity to review the                                                                            
             survey questions.                                                                                                  
          6. A description of how the survey will be                                                                            
       7. A description of how to opt out of that survey.                                                                       
          8. Notice of the opportunity for the student to                                                                       
             refuse to take the survey or to answer any of the                                                                  
             specific questions.                                                                                                
      We urge you to move this bill from committee so that                                                                      
      we can gather this important data for the health of                                                                       
     our youth.                                                                                                                 
8:06:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON inquired as to why  the language in Sections 1 and 2                                                               
isn't parallel.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  pointed out that  the language on  page 1,                                                               
line 7,  of Section 1 says  "This subsection does not  apply to a                                                               
questionnaire or survey  that is anonymous ...."  The  YRBS is an                                                               
anonymous survey.                                                                                                               
CHAIR SEATON said he wanted to  guard against any gaps that would                                                               
allow the  survey to be  performed by  anyone else in  the school                                                               
district if the survey is anonymous.   He then related his intent                                                               
to hold the bill for action at a future hearing.                                                                                
8:08:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  asked if  Chair Seaton's concern  is that                                                               
the  current  language only  allows  an  anonymous survey  to  be                                                               
administered by the school district  or an employee of the school                                                               
CHAIR SEATON agreed  that is of concern.  However,  he added that                                                               
another  concern  is  that  Section   2  wouldn't  apply  if  the                                                               
anonymous survey was administered by  someone other than a school                                                               
district  employee.   He expressed  the  desire to  be sure  that                                                               
there isn't  an unintended  gap with  the permission  language in                                                               
Sections 1 and 2.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON   surmised  then  that  Chair   Seaton  is                                                               
referring  to the  language  on  page 1,  lines  4-5, which  says                                                               
"school  district may  not administer  or permit  administration"                                                               
whereas the  language in Section  2 doesn't include  the language                                                               
"or permit administration".                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON said that is correct.                                                                                              
8:10:48 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER   remarked  that  the  language   "or  an                                                               
employee  of a  school  district" on  page 1,  line  4, could  be                                                               
omitted  because  it  would  be  understood  since  the  language                                                               
specifies that the school district is administering the survey.                                                                 
MS.  ROONEY  said  the  sponsor  would  take  the  aforementioned                                                               
suggestion  under  advisement  and discuss  it  with  Legislative                                                               
Legal and Research Services.                                                                                                    
8:11:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  expressed interest as  to why it  has been                                                               
difficult  for school  districts to  obtain active  consent.   He                                                               
questioned whether  parents are  reticent to sign  the permission                                                               
slips or are the parents not seen once a year.                                                                                  
MS.  ROONEY, from  studies she  has read,  relayed that  about 78                                                               
percent of those  who do not participate in  studies that require                                                               
active  permission do  so due  to apathy,  oversight, or  student                                                               
error.  In further response  to Representative Keller, Ms. Rooney                                                               
explained  that  schools  try  various  methods  to  contact  the                                                               
parent,  including mailings,  telephone  calls, submissions,  and                                                               
reward  systems to  encourage higher  return rates  of permission                                                               
slips.   Ms. Rooney  opined that it's  very difficult  and costly                                                               
for the school districts.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  presumed then that this  bill will address                                                               
the parents who are not [attentive and responsive].                                                                             
MS.  ROONEY  agreed,  but  reiterated   that  some  of  the  non-                                                               
responsiveness is error.                                                                                                        
8:14:26 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ inquired  as to the financial  impact on the                                                               
school districts that don't have the survey information.                                                                        
MS.  ROONEY   related  her  understanding  that   last  year  the                                                               
Anchorage School District spent  $70,000 to receive the responses                                                               
to collect  the data.   She  explained that  since the  survey is                                                               
administered  [no  matter the  permission],  it  isn't until  the                                                               
responses are  in that  the school  district knows  whether there                                                               
are enough to  produce the report and be considered  at the state                                                               
and national levels.                                                                                                            
8:15:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  asked if there  are situations in  which an                                                               
insufficient  number  of  responses prevents  the  district  from                                                               
receiving grant funding.                                                                                                        
MS. ROONEY replied yes.                                                                                                         
8:15:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER pointed  out that  one can't  assume that                                                               
parents who don't return surveys don't care.                                                                                    
MS.  ROONEY noted  her agreement,  and added  that biased  sample                                                               
data  may  result  when  active  permission  is  required.    She                                                               
attributed the  aforementioned to the responding  parents who are                                                               
typically Caucasian,  more educated,  and more involved  in their                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ mentioned that  the lack of permission slips                                                               
can also be  the fault of the teenager in  terms of not providing                                                               
the information in a timely fashion.                                                                                            
8:17:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON added that the  permission slip can also be                                                               
lost on  its return to school.   She then informed  the committee                                                               
that  last year  this bill  was  amended in  the House  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee to ensure that  parental rights were observed.                                                               
This bill still reflects those  changes and allows for many means                                                               
by  which the  parents  have the  opportunity  to understand  and                                                               
respond to  the survey.   The written  notice is  still required,                                                               
she pointed  out.   Although some  schools provide  single notice                                                               
permission slips  at the  beginning of the  year, the  parent can                                                               
still specify that  he/she wants to be notified  of each instance                                                               
[requiring  their  permission]  and  the  school  would  have  to                                                               
8:19:31 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER inquired as to  whether the sponsor has any                                                               
comments regarding the federal law that applies.                                                                                
MS.  ROONEY pointed  out that  the active  permission requirement                                                               
was  repealed after  the federal  government  determined in  2003                                                               
that the data  was skewed and there was a  lack of participation.                                                               
Therefore,  passive permission  was allowed  under No  Child Left                                                               
Behind (NCLB).                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE   KELLER,   referring    to   the   federal   law,                                                               
characterized it to be somewhat like double talk.                                                                               
8:21:33 AM                                                                                                                    
STEVE  WARREN  opined that  the  active  consent requirement  for                                                               
anonymous  surveys makes  it  difficult to  address  some of  the                                                               
dangerous,  emerging  trends.    As   a  hunter  he  likened  the                                                               
situation to  a hunter who closes  his eyes and shoots  at a bear                                                               
he thinks he heard.   Aiming the state's limited prevention funds                                                               
without  much  guidance as  to  the  location  of the  target  is                                                               
fiscally and morally  not a good approach.  Mr.  Warren said that                                                               
when he  talks with parents  regarding huffing or  ordering drugs                                                               
from  the Internet,  parents say  it  isn't a  problem in  Sitka.                                                               
However,   the  empty   spray  paint   and  glue   containers  in                                                               
neighborhood  forts  indicate  the  contrary.    "We're  limiting                                                               
ourselves  to   guessing  if  we   deny  ourselves   this  proven                                                               
technology for  assessing what risks  our kids really  face," Mr.                                                               
Warren opined.  All students need  to be given the opportunity to                                                               
inform the authorities  of the dangers they face  in an anonymous                                                               
fashion.   The students who are  least likely to make  it through                                                               
all the hoops  with the consent forms are the  very students that                                                               
should  be heard  from,  he pointed  out.   He  then stated  that                                                               
posing some  simple questions  about whether  a student  is using                                                               
and what  is being used  isn't the  problem; the real  problem is                                                               
the  lack  of constraints  put  on  the  pushers of  alcohol  and                                                               
tobacco,  which he  characterized as  a proven  gateway to  other                                                               
drugs.   The surveys are drawn  up in a sound  means to determine                                                               
specific  dangers  faced by  the  students  while protecting  the                                                               
anonymity of  the students  surveyed.   In conclusion,  he opined                                                               
that it's important to pass HB 130.                                                                                             
8:25:17 AM                                                                                                                    
EMILY  NENON,  Alaska  Government  Relations  Director,  American                                                               
Cancer  Society  Cancer  Action  Network  (ACS  CAN),  said  that                                                               
although the ACS CAN doesn't  receive any direct benefit from the                                                               
surveys,  it's  critical in  helping  the  cancer society  attain                                                               
information  regarding where  they  should  focus their  efforts.                                                               
Furthermore,  there needs  to be  a  consistent way  in which  to                                                               
measure the  work that  the prevention dollars  fund.   Ms. Nenon                                                               
highlighted that  this legislation  won't fix everything  as it's                                                               
not the  only thing that  needs to happen  with the YRBS.   There                                                               
are  other   efforts  outside  of  the   legislature  to  educate                                                               
classroom teachers as to why  these surveys are important as well                                                               
as educate students  as to how taking this  survey benefits them.                                                               
Ms. Nenon acknowledged that the  legislation before the committee                                                               
has went  through a  few iterations  over the years  and is  at a                                                               
good point now.                                                                                                                 
8:28:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  closed public testimony and  informed the committee                                                               
that  HB 130  will  be held  for another  hearing,  and that  any                                                               
proposed  amendments should  be provided  to the  chair and  bill                                                               
sponsor prior to the next hearing.                                                                                              
8:29:44 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease from 8:29 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.                                                                       

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 130 information.pdf HEDC 4/6/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 130
HB 59 background I.pdf HEDC 4/6/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/8/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 59
HB 59 workdraft version E and original version R.pdf HEDC 4/6/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/8/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 59
HB 59 background II.pdf HEDC 4/6/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/8/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 59
HB59-ESS-EED-4-2-09.pdf HEDC 4/6/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/8/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 59
HB130-EED-ESS-4-3-09.pdf HEDC 4/6/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 130