(1st Add: Includes information about Assembly debate.)
(CNSNews.com) - Parental rights advocates in California are claiming victory for stalling an Assembly bill that would allow schools to survey students on topics like sex and religion without written parental permission.
Although the legislation would simply require parents to "opt out" rather than "opt in" where the questionnaires are concerned, a pro-family group is warning that the bill opens the door for homosexual activists to leave their mark on students from kindergarten to high school.
The bill's sponsor, the California Safe Schools Coalition, argues that it's needed to get a better sampling of students on a wide range of issues. The measure, introduced by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) in February, was stalled Thursday after Assembly Republicans opposed the bill.
The Campaign for California Families, which opposes the bill, is asking California families to write their legislators about the bill. The group's executive director, Randy Thomasson, said parents should be outraged.
"It's a very deceptive bill that destroys parental rights, puts the burden on the parents and pushes invasive sex surveys on little kids," he said. "The Democrats don't believe in parental rights. They believe children are sexual creatures, and they want to unleash the homosexual 'desires' of little children."
The biggest change resulting from the bill would come with anonymous questionnaires. Under current law, schools need to inform parents in writing and obtain written permission when asking about sex, family life, morality or religion.
But under Hancock's bill, schools could administer questionnaires anonymously as long as they informed parents in writing, allowed them to review the material and gave parents an option to decline participation. The bill also deletes the reference to "family life."
In addition, schools would be permitted to survey students on the topics of school safety, school violence and "prohibited discrimination" without having to notify parents.
According to an Assembly analysis of the bill, the tough opt-in language was added in 1994 after a controversy related to a standardized test.
Calls to Hancock's office and the California Safe Schools Coalition were not returned. But Christopher Daley, co-director of the Transgender Law Center, said his organization supports the bill because it would identify schools with students who are in need of help.
"A bill like this is going make it much easier to collect accurate data from a broad range of students," Daley said. "It's going to make sure that everyone's experiences are being included."
The Transgender Law Center assists students in many urban districts but is unable to reach rural schools, Daley said. Students in those schools would benefit if the organization had better data from surveys, he added.
For example, the California Healthy Kids Survey - a questionnaire focusing on topics from alcohol and drug use to sexual behavior and school violence - only has a 52 percent participation rate across the state, according to the Assembly analysis.
Thomasson warns that while these surveys might appear harmless, interest groups distributing them often have ulterior motives. If the bill passes, he said groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Teachers Network could ask questions such as, "If you have never slept with someone of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer that?" or "Is it possible you merely need a good gay experience?"
"When kids can't even read, write or compute properly, the schools shouldn't be pushing social engineering of any type," Thomasson said. "These children belong to their parents, they do not belong to the state. And the state has no right to invade the sanctity of the home and push the parents off of their throne."
Daley said he sympathizes with parents who worry about surveys given to their children, but he also cautioned parents to look beyond the parental rights issues and recognize the anti-homosexual agenda of groups like the Campaign for California Families.
He speculated that Thomasson simply didn't want to face the truth about students' feelings on homosexuality.
"I have some fears that their concerns are motivated by something other than parental control. They really don't want effective research that may run counter to some of their beliefs," Daley said. "Local control is easily preserved with this bill. All it does is remove inefficient administrative barriers."
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