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AG: Health survey is voluntary, doesn’t require advance parental permission

State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman released a formal opinion today saying that state and federal laws don’t require schools to get advance permission from parents when students take the biennial Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

The decision answers a controversial question that’s been swirling around the State Board of Education for months: Must parents give permission before students participate in the survey? Some parents have complained that some survey questions about drugs, sex and alcohol are invasive and inappropriate.

Today’s opinion appears to contradict an earlier informal opinion from an assistant attorney general. That opinion stated that parents must be given advance written consent in order for their children to take the survey.

Currently, most schools use “passive consent” to notify parents about the survey. That means students are administered the survey unless their parents sign a form opting them out. The new decision suggests schools can continue on that path.

The decision reviewed whether state and federal laws requiring advance written permission for certain types of surveys apply to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. The attorney general concluded that they don’t, largely because the laws apply to required surveys. The health survey is voluntary.

The opinion concludes by leaving the state board some wiggle room to determine whether the survey is voluntary or required. The opinion states, “The State Board of Education and the Colorado Department of Education have discretion to clarify specific factual circumstances under which participation in a survey such as the ‘HKCS’ would be ‘required’ and thus subject to parental consent provisions of [state law].”

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