The PPRA and the Rights of Students and Parents
The Parents Rights under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment or PPRA affords parents and students who are either 18 or classified as emancipated minors certain rights in relation to the conduction of surveys, the collection and use of information for marketing purposes, and certain physical exams. The amendment seeks to ensure that schools and contractors make certain information and materials accessible to parents, if such information or materials will be used in connection with Department of Education or ED funded surveys, analyses, and evaluations in which their children may participate.
What’s more, the PPRA also seeks to ensure that schools and contractors obtain parental consent prior to requiring minor students to participate in any ED-funded survey, analysis, or evaluation that would ask them to reveal or confirm any of the following personal information:
- Political affiliations.
- Mental or physiological problems that may be potentially embarrassing to a student or their family.
- Sexual behavior or attitudes.
- Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior.
- Critical appraisals or evaluations of individuals with whom students may have close family relationships.
- Legally recognized analogous or privileged relationships such as those of ministers, doctors, or lawyers.
- Income, excluding income information that is required by law and collected in relation to determining a student’s eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such programs.
- Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs that may be held by either a student or their parents.
The PPRA also seeks to ensure that parents receive both the notice and opportunity to opt a student out of any of the following:
- Any other forms of protected survey information, regardless of funding.
- Any non-emergency health screening or physical exam that is required as a condition of attendance, administered by the school or an agent or associate of the school, and is not necessary to protect the immediate health and safety of a student, except for vision, hearing, or scoliosis screenings, or any other physical exam health screening that is required or permitted under state law.
- Activities involving the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information obtained from students for the purposes of marketing, selling, or otherwise distributing this information to third parties.
Under the PPRA, parents and guardians have the right to inspect, upon request, prior to the administration or use of the following information or materials:
- The protected information surveys of students.
- Instruments that are used to collect the personal information of students for any sales, marketing, or other distribution purposes.
- Instructional materials that are used as part of an educational curriculum.
Who does the PPRA apply to?
The PPRA applies to all educators and school counselors, as well as most instructional materials that may be used in a given classroom, irrespective of the formatting of these materials. The only exception to this rule is academic tests, as this issue was tried in court in the state of Kentucky after parents insisted on viewing academic state tests in advance. In Triplett v. Livingston County Board of Education, KY Court of Appeals, 1997, the court stated, “Parents do not have the right to opt-out of state tests, since none of the questions of those tests would trigger the protections of the PPRA.”
How do school administrators and educators maintain PPRA compliance?
To maintain PPRA compliance, school administrators and educators are advised to reflect on the following considerations:
- Avoid requiring students to respond to any survey that contains any of the protected categories listed above, as obtaining written parental consent will likely be difficult, time-consuming, and lead to limited responses.
- Only conduct school district-developed or provided surveys, and double check to ensure that these surveys do not contain any questions within the protected categories listed above.
- If there is a need to create a survey that infringes on any of these categories, have the survey vetted by the appropriate district employee who approves such survey, and obtains this approval in writing. PPRA requirements must still be followed in relation to parental consent.
- Be completely transparent with parents in regards to any personal information that will be collected from their child.
- Be aware of any other relevant or applicable laws and raise concerns if you think that these laws are being violated.
The PPRA seeks to provide parents and students alike with some modicum of protection in relation to the personal information that students may divulge in relation to surveys. While students are legally adults after they reach the age of 18, the vast majority will still be dependent upon their parents in some form or fashion. As such, legislation such as the PPRA is needed to ensure that the rights of these students are not violated. With the PPRA, parents can rest assured that their children will not have to answer any survey questions without first granting consent to their applicable school district.