Pupil Rights Law Allows Parents to Opt Students Out of
A 1998 federal law, the Protection of Pupil Rights
Amendment (PPRA), allows parents to inspect instructional
materials used in connection with any U.S. Department of
Education-funded "survey, analysis, or evaluation." The law,
often called the "Hatch amendment" or the "Grassley amendment"
for the members of Congress who introduced it, also requires
schools to obtain written parental consent before minor
students participate in Education Department-funded surveys
that ask questions about personal or family matters.
As the result of recent amendments to PPRA in the No Child
Left Behind education law (Public Law 107-110, signed January
8, 2002), parents have additional rights to examine materials
with regard to the surveying of minor students, even when the
surveys are not Education Department-funded, and to opt their
children out of surveys and certain non-emergency medical
The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) in the U.S.
Department of Education, which administers the Family
Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), has responsibility
for the expanded Protection of Pupil Rights law, also known as
the "Tiahrt amendment."
The original PPRA law required schools and contractors to
make educational materials available for inspection by parents
and provided a list of survey questions that would trigger the
need for written parental permission. Those requirements
remain in place. The trigger questions include inquiries
- political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the
- mental and psychological problems of the student or the
- sex behavior or attitudes;
- illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning
- critical appraisals of other individuals with whom
students have close family relationships;
- legally recognized privileged or analogous
relationships, such as those with lawyers, physicians, and
- religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the
student or student’s parent; or
- income, other than that required by law to determine
eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving
financial assistance under such program.
The PPRA compliance office in the U.S. Department of
Education points out that these requirements apply when a
survey is funded, at least in part, by any program
administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Under the Tiahrt amendment that took effect in 2002,
additional requirements are now in place, and they apply as
well to surveys funded by sources other than the U.S.
Department of Education. The law now requires public
elementary and secondary schools to "develop and adopt
policies—in conjunction with parents," regarding:
- the rights of parents to inspect, upon request, a survey
created by a third party before the survey is administered
or distributed by a school to students;
- arrangements to protect student privacy in a survey if
it includes any of the eight items noted above;
- the right of parents to inspect any instructional
materials used as part of the education curriculum;
- administration of physical examinations or screenings
that the school may administer to students;
- collection, disclosure, or use of personal information
collected from students for the purpose of marketing,
- the right of parents to inspect any instrument used in
collecting information for marketing or selling.
Schools must notify parents of their PPRA policies at least
once annually and must give parents ample opportunity to opt
out (remove their child) from participation in surveys
containing one or more of the eight items of information
specified in the original law.
Parents are also allowed to remove their children from any
non-emergency invasive physical examination or screening that
is required for attendance or is not necessary to protect the
immediate health and safety of the student or other students.
Explanation of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment
is posted on the Education Department’s Family Policy
Compliance Office website at www.ed.gov/offices/OM/fpco/ppra/index.html.
The compliance office indicates it will publish regs covering
the new parts of the law.