PJI Confronts School District on Collusion With Newspaper to Violate Student Privacy

Fresno, CA–Attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute are calling for investigation, apologies to parents, and other remedial steps after the Fresno Unified School District allowed a reporter to violate privacy and parental notification laws. 
PJI detailed its concerns last week in a letter to the Superintendent and school board members of Fresno USD.  This spring, a reporter for the Fresno Bee was given access to Fresno high school students on campus.  The reporter quizzed the minors on what they were learning about sex education, particularly with regard to abortion and LGBT issues.  The survey ended by directly asking students whether they have had sex and/or unprotected sex.  

Both state and federal law require that parents be notified and given an opportunity to object before surveys are given to students that probe their beliefs or practices in areas such as sex, religion, politics, or family life.  According to the parents who contacted PJI, no attempt was made to follow the law.  
Despite the dubious manner in which answers to the surveys were obtained, the Bee published the results of the survey, and even quoted several minor students by name, on October 20. 
The PJI letter notes that the District’s failure to protect students and parents could lead to severe consequences such as the loss of federal funding.  PJI is therefore calling on the District to take a number of steps to correct the violation. 
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “Convincing a school district to allow the violation of student privacy and parental rights in order to sell newspapers is a new low for the mainstream media.  These laws exist to protect family privacy, and they were blatantly disregarded.  We expect a genuine apology to parents and a genuine commitment to change in order for the District to avoid further legal consequences.” 
Parents of high school students within Fresno Unified should contact PJI for assistance in determining whether their rights were violated.