Serial No. 105-103


Printed for the use of the Committee on Education

and the Workforce






















May 7, 1998


House of Representatives

Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families

Committee on Education and the Workforce


Washington, DC


The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 A.M., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Representative Frank Riggs [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.

Present: Representatives Riggs, Souder, Martinez, Payne, Roemer, Scott, and Kucinich.

Staff Present: Sally Lovejoy, Senior Education Policy Advisor; Kent Talbert, Professional Staff Member; Rich Stombres, Legislative Assistant; June L. Harris, Minority Education Coordinator; Alex Nock, Minority Legislative Associate; and Roxana Folescu, Minority Staff Assistant.

Chairman Riggs. Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I would like to call to order this hearing of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families on House Resolution 3189, the Parental Freedom of Information Act, offered in this session of Congress by our good friend and colleague, Congressman Tiahrt of Kansas.

It is a pleasure to welcome each of you here today, and I want to tell all of our witnesses at the very commencement of our hearing that I very much look forward to your testimony. My name is Frank Riggs. I represent the First District of California and I chair the Subcommittee.

More than ever before, policymakers need to rally behind parents and families. Why do I say this? Well, obviously when families are strong and healthy, our country is healthy. Families, after all, are the basic unit of society around which cultures are organized. And parents, as the leaders of families, play the number one role in determining the strength and the health of the family.

I might add that the idea of stronger families in communities is a common theme and a common, if you will, cause that unites Congressional Republicans as we work to lower taxes, to build a smaller but more effective Federal Government and stronger families and communities. Too often the Federal Government has not been family-friendly in the policies that the executive branch of government has set and in the laws enacted by the Congress, the legislative branch of the Federal Government. Too often Federal laws have not recognized and respected the primary role of parents in the education of their children.

In some instances, as I think we may hear today, schools have been outright hostile to parents. If anything, education in our country should respect and acknowledge the key role of parents in the upbringing of their children. Everyone knows that when parents are actively engaged in the education of their children and remain engaged, the children do better.

In fact, I want to note for the record that in the experimental or pilot choice programs that we are finding now in the Milwaukee and Cleveland public schools, the early data suggests that there is a correlation between parental involvement, a greater parental satisfaction with the education that the children of those parents are receiving, and, we believe and this is where the data is most encouraging a corresponding increase in student achievement and pupil performance.

Yet in some instances parents face roadblocks put in their way by local school and State education authorities. Unfortunately, parents are sometimes treated like outsiders. The bill before us today by Congressman Tiahrt takes the opposite approach. Rather than shutting parents out of the educational process, it seeks to bring them in. It seeks to include, rather than exclude.

We have an obligation to do all we can to promote policies which actively engage parents, which welcome parents as full partners into the classroom, which fully disclose what is being taught in the curriculum at that particular school and in that particular school district, and would seek parental consent on major life issues involving their children.

At this time I want to again thank our witnesses for their participation in our hearing. On the first panel, which has already been seated, we will hear from three colleagues: Congressman Tiahrt, who is, as I mentioned at the outset of the hearing, is the sponsor of the legislation before the committee today; Representative Steve Largent of Oklahoma, one of the key leaders on family and Parental Freedom of Information Act issues in the Congress; and Representative Gene Green, a former Member of this committee.

On the second panel we will hear from two parents, Dr. John Reinhard and Cindy Delullo I hope I am pronouncing it right; one school superintendent, Dr. Daniel Domenech; a principal, Mr. Jim Means; a teacher, Mr. Larry Davis; and Mr. Jeff Taylor of the Christian Coalition.

So with that I will conclude my opening statement. The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Congressman Matthew Martinez, has not yet arrived. When he does, time permitting, we will recognize him for an opening statement.

At this time I would yield to either one of my colleagues or both of my colleagues if they care to make an opening statement. Mr. Kucinich?


Mr. Kucinich. I want to thank the Chair for calling this hearing. I think you are raising some issues that certainly need to be discussed. I certainly favor parents being more involved in the schools. Whether or not that needs to be codified is an issue of debate here.

I will be unfortunately having to go to welcome a group of students who are coming in from Ohio to our Nation's Capitol. But there is one bit of advice I would like to offer, quite friendly advice, I might say, to some of the panelists. Having read the testimony of some of the witnesses not Members, I might add who are prepared to testify, I note in some of the testimony what I would consider remarks that would tend to impugn the position on this issue of Members of Congress. And I would caution witnesses about coming before a congressional committee and doing that, just a little bit of friendly advice.

So thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to your meeting today.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Kucinich. Mr. Roemer.


Mr. Roemer. Mr. Chairman, I don't have a formal opening statement but I do want to make two comments. One, I want to welcome my colleagues, Mr. Largent and Mr. Tiahrt from the Science Committee, where they previously served and oftentimes took some controversial positions, especially my good friend from Oklahoma who has fought with me on a couple of different issues. I welcome them and welcome their testimony.

I also want to welcome my good friend from Texas, who is a previous Member of this Education Committee, where he made a host of substantive contributions to improving access for children across the country to higher education in particular.

I am one who believes very, very forcefully in parental involvement in our schools. We have got a lot of problems in our schools, and there is no single one solution that is going to solve those problems, but parental involvement seems to me to be one of the keys. Parental involvement in my life was one of the keys, when my mom and dad became more involved, when there was cooperation between the school and my family home.

I look forward to the testimony today, and I look forward to learning ideas from Democrats and Republicans as to how we get more parental involvement in this country. I thank the Chairman.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Roemer. And the Ranking Member, Mr. Martinez.


Mr. Martinez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have a statement but I am going to submit it to the record so we can get to the witnesses. I just want to say, you know, in all of my years of my children going to school and when I went to school, I can remember organization after organization always encouraging parents to get involved in what is happening in the school.

You know, school is really not successful unless the parents get involved. The more deeply parents get involved, the more successful the school, as evidenced by those schools in more affluent districts where the parents are actually strong supporters of the school and form booster clubs and support in every way they can all the activities and extracurricular activities.

I never really heard, even in my area where there are some schools that are in the neighborhoods with a lower socioeconomic background of people living there, that they would ever deny a parent any access to any information. The school board, as a matter of fact, all the school boards are locally elected, and those school boards, those elected officials and I am sure my Chairman, Mr. Riggs, can agree with me because he was a school board member are always attentive to the constituents and their requests. If one of those people came to them requesting information about the school and the curriculum in school and all the other activities that the school is undertaking, those school board members would certainly make sure that that school board, that that school or that school administration made sure that the parents had that information.

I don't know I don't think any of us are against parental involvement or against parents knowing what is happening in the schools. I am not sure exactly what we are trying to accomplish here. If you want to set up a court system or provide employment opportunities for attorneys, that is great. But I think we ought to be very careful as we move forward in over-regulating or, like they said last night on the Floor so many times, micromanaging local school boards. I think we have to be careful of that.

So I will submit my statement for the record, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses, especially our colleagues. Whenever our colleagues appear before us, we can be sure that it is going to be insightful and informed information. Thank you.


Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Martinez.

On February 11th of this year, Congressman Tiahrt of Kansas introduced House Resolution 3198, which is similar to bills that he has introduced in the past on parental rights. There are currently 60 cosponsors of that legislation, and perhaps more since this particular bulletin was published. Members of the committee who are cosponsors of this legislation are Congressmen Souder, Talent, McIntosh, Peterson, Graham, Hilleary, Norwood, and Hoekstra.

Congressman Tiahrt, we are pleased that you could be with us this morning. Please proceed with your testimony.



Mr. Tiahrt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I will submit formal testimony for the record and somewhat summarize my remarks.

Chairman Riggs. I would just interject to say, the entire written testimony of all of our witnesses will appear in the record, so feel free to abbreviate or make other remarks.

Mr. Tiahrt. I also want to thank the members of the committee for this hearing. I think this is a very important piece of legislation, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about how we can bring parents and teachers together with a goal of strengthening goals and improving the education of children.

I have been actively involved in education for some time. I am a graduate of public schools. My children attend public schools. My wife taught in public schools. I have served as a Member of the Education Committee in the Kansas State Senate. I have also taught at the college level, where nearly all of my students were products of public schools.

From my observations, which include teaching, parent-teacher meetings, speaking with teachers, administrators, parents, it is quite obvious that students do best and schools do best when parents are actively involved in their child's education. For some reason, when parents care about the quality of their child's education, the child cares more about being educated.

So what my legislation does is encourage parents to be more involved in their child's education by removing barriers that currently exist, barriers that prevent parents from being involved.

This bill, H.R. 3189, is the Parental Freedom of Information Act. As I said, its basic purpose is to get parents involved in education. It does that by clarifying FERPA or the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

Let me go back to 1974 when Senator Buckley brought to the Floor the amendment called FERPA. He brought it there with the intention of bringing parents into the education process by opening up school educational materials. I believe this was good policy, Congress believed it was good policy, and it became the law of the land.

However, in some places the law is vague; particularly when explaining educational records, where the law lists records, files, documents and other materials which contain information directly related to a student. From the record of the Floor debate, it is clear that Senator Buckley's legislation intended to include curriculum and testing material.

But now across America there remains some conclusion about what parents can see in order to help their children. There is been a considerable amount of court action and many frustrated parents, teachers and school systems that have struggled to determine what the law means. The mix of State and Federal law has contributed to this frustration. Our office has been contacted by dozens of people who have, and we have a long list of court cases, all trying to find a little clarification to a very good concept.

My goal is simple. I want to clarify existing law and bring parents into the education process of their children. This bill achieves that goal in three ways.

First, it provides access by defining instructional material and specifically listing textbooks, audiovisual material, manuals, journals, films, tapes and other materials supplemental to the education curriculum of a child.

Second, the bill defines testing material, again, providing access to tests without answering, of course without the answers, of course, or excluding and it does exclude standardized tests.

Third, it involves parents when the school requires a medical, psychological or a psychiatric exam at the school.

This is not a complicated bill. It is a simple clarification of existing Federal law with the intention of bringing parents into the education process of their child.

Some who are opposed to this bill would say there is no need for this legislation. However, there has been a string of State and Federal court cases looking for a clarification of existing law. My office has been contacted by dozens of people, as I said earlier. There is a need for simple definitions and this bill accomplishes that.

Others have said this would create an administrative burden. Later you will hear from Principal Jim Means, who represents the Wichita School System, the largest school system in the State of Kansas. He will tell you that having clear definitions and bringing parents into the education process actually reduces the administrative burden on schools.

One may argue that this bill would create court action in Federal court over textbooks, over suing to change curriculum. This bill only provides access. Parents, fully exercising this law, could see a textbook or could see curriculum, but in no way could they sue to change educational material. This bill simply opens up to the parents the information and it provides that access, which is a good concept.

Some say we shouldn't consider this because it is a State issue. The fact is that Federal law does exist and it does need clarification.

Originally teachers were concerned that they could not act in the best interests of a child because of this legislation. But it does not prohibit teachers from providing emergency care or acting if a child is at risk. Anytime a child voluntarily asks for help, there is nothing in this bill that would prohibit that.

Again, the goal of this legislation is to bring parents and schools together to improve education. Teachers and administrators and parents all agree, as do members of this panel, that when parents are involved in their child's education, the schools are stronger and the children are better educated. This bill works toward that goal by removing these obstacles that stand in the way and improving education and strengthening schools.

In closing, I want to thank Chairman Riggs for calling this hearing and for the support of this legislation, and I urge the committee to act on this legislation this session. I would welcome your questions.


Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Representative Tiahrt.

We turn to our next witness, another colleague, Congressman Steve Largent, who has been actively involved, as I mentioned earlier, in family and parental rights issues over the past few years, actually since coming to Congress. During the 104th Congress, the last Congress, he introduced House Resolution 1946, which prohibited Federal, State and local governments from interfering with or usurping the rights of the parents to direct the upbringing of the children. That bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Steve, we are happy to have you here this morning. Please proceed with your testimony.


Mr. Largent. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would just summarize my remarks.

I had a conversation here this morning. I appreciate all the opening statements by the members that are present because it will shorten my remarks. As all of us understand, it is not an earth-shattering revelation to understand that when parents are involved in their children's education, children get a better education and parents are more satisfied. I mean, that has been revealed in surveys for a long, long time. We are all very aware of that.

Education, frankly, is not a partisan issue. We all want good education for our children. I understand that and I come in that spirit this morning. I would say that I think that the issues that this particular bill addresses probably in most schools are not an issue, because I am aware of many public schools that I represent that do everything that they can to include parents in the decisions that they make and in the curriculum that they offer and the testing that they do. But that is not true in all cases.

I would say that the question that you really have to ask yourself when you are considering this bill, in fact that I was thinking before even coming to testify this morning, is why would a school not want parents to have access to testing materials and curriculum? Why would schools not want parents to be involved and informed in their kid's education? I don't understand why a school would not want that. But in fact some schools have gone across the line, and that is what makes this legislation necessary.

I think the thing that we need to underscore, and oftentimes in these discussions, is that parents are not the enemy. Ignorance is the enemy, but parents are not. Too often I see battle lines drawn between parents and school boards and parents and school administrators, and that shouldn't be. We are all working for the same thing, and that is to get a quality education and a safe environment for our kids when they are receiving their education.

So Todd and I are kind of working as a team. As he kind of laid out the purpose of the bill, let me give you a couple of examples of what we are talking about when parents do not have access or are not informed, the types of experimental testing and experimental things that are taking place in the education process.

The first one and I didn't make copies of the first one because I can read some of the more invasive questions that were asked again, this was in Pennsylvania, this was without parental notification or consent. This is a test that was given at Mount Lebanon High in Pennsylvania in late October of '95. It asks 26 different questions. I just highlighted some of the more egregious ones.

Question Number 6 was, do you actively practice your religion? How does it affect your daily life and community? How much money does each family member earn each month? What are your monthly household expenses? What is each family member's most valued possession? What other possessions would you like to acquire? What types of sacred objects are around the house? Alcohol, tobacco and firearms, are they available and what members, what family members use them? What is a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner? Are you satisfied with your food?

These are questions that I think are very inappropriate. At the very least, even if you don't think that these are inappropriate questions, I think that there is a question that exists as to whether these types of questions should be asked of our kids and that parents should at least have the ability to see this type of testing done on our kids before it is conducted, not afterwards, as this one occurred.

The next test, this is actually one that was an 8th grade science test about sexuality from a school in Oklahoma. And, Mr. Chairman, I would just like to pass out this test to members on the committee because I quite honestly, what I would like to do is just refer to the different questions and allow you to read them for yourself, because I am embarrassed to read them in front of this committee and for the record. But I would like to distribute them.

I will just refer to the numbers and let you guys get I highlighted some of them on my copy, and when you get that, if you would I just highlighted two, but there are many, many others that and again, this may be an extreme example, but it is not a total anomaly of what is taking place in schools across the country.

But if you would take a look at this test, and it is about three pages, it has a total of 84 questions that deal with everything from homosexuality to petting. But just on the first page, and you will keep a copy and read it later, I guess, don't show it to your children, but look at Question Number 6 and Question Number 12, but I don't want to repeat them in public.

I don't know about you, but I have a 6th grade son, a 7th grade son, an 11th grade daughter, and a son who is a freshman in college. There are a lot of things that should be confined to the conversation between a father and a son or a mother and her daughter, that are on this test, that I think are highly flammable and inappropriate to say the least at any age, much less 8th grade.

So again, these are just a couple of the examples. There are others. But this is the type of thing that angers parents, and we get calls from them all the time about different issues like this, and why I am in support of the Parental Freedom of Information Act.

Now, I yield back my time, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Largent.

Congressman Green? Gene Green, as I mentioned, is a former Member of this committee. We are pleased that he could be here today.

Gene, please proceed with your testimony.



Mr. Green. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will tell you if I had an 8th grade student, I would be upset about this test also. In fact, if I was the Member of Congress, if that was in my district, Miami, Oklahoma, I would talk with my school board member and my superintendent.

I appreciate the chance to be here today, and I join my colleagues here. One, I am not going to sit here and testify or speak against parental involvement, because I think all of us know if you have children, you want to be more involved, and you want to have as many opportunities as you can to be involved with your children in public school.

The concern I have about the bill is, it is really a solution in search of a problem on a Federal level, because I know I served I bring not only experience, I served two terms on this committee, but as a State senator, and I served seven years on the Education Committee and in the Senate before that as a State representative, working on education policy. I know in Texas we have current law that was passed, in fact, it was amended in the '95 session of the legislature, but it provides for a lot of things that this bill would do on a local level.

I commend the efforts to encourage parental involvement in our children's education. I have two children that are now in public institutions in Texas in college, but they both attended and graduated from public schools in Houston, and my wife is a high school algebra teacher. I notice later on your panel I believe a Larry Davis will be testifying, and he is a math teacher from Waco, Texas.

As a Member of the legislature, I supported parental access to curriculum and testing materials. However, some provisions of this bill, I think, go beyond and may border on even dangerous; one, because it codifies in Federal law what is being addressed by State law already, and it provides for Federal remedy.

Now I feel kind of awkward as an attorney sitting here and saying I don't know if I want somebody to have the opportunity to go to Federal court, because I think oftentimes that is a system our forefathers set up for us, and to expand an ability to go to court is really what an attorney is all about, I guess, so I feel a little uncomfortable doing that.

But I also don't know if Federal court is where these cases ought to be, since most of the Federal funding for public schools in my district borders on 10 percent, on the average of 6 or 7 percent State nationwide. So I don't know if that is really where we want our school districts to be, when there is a remedy already at State court.

Under this bill, parents are given the right to sue the local school district and the state education agency if they are denied access to any instructional or testing materials. In addition, parents could receive the right to recover attorneys' fees during the litigation.

Most States give parents specific rights. Why are we infringing on these State laws or local laws or procedure? I think it is unnecessary. Like I say, I have a copy of the Texas statute, again, that was amended in 1995, parental rights and responsibilities. It has, again, been in State law for many years, and again, just like we do, changed every year, and the legislature in Texas updated it in 1995.

In my State, as in most States, parents are entitled to review all teaching material, textbooks and teacher aids used in the classroom of the parent's child. In addition, a parent is entitled to review each test administered to the child after the test that is administered.

If access is denied, parents can appeal first to the local superintendent, then to the school board, and eventually to our State Education Commissioner. If it doesn't stop there that State Education Commissioner may deny it they can go to the State school board, and ultimately to the district court. Not unlike the procedure we have, an administrative remedy, and ultimately to the Federal court system if someone is aggrieved on the Federal level.

Parents and teachers and administrators and State officials carefully considered these State procedures, and we shouldn't just discard them very easily. Because I have parents in my district who have and even teaching personnel, that is also the process for their appeal and they take that appeal very seriously.

We need to encourage additional parental participation, and I think local law does that. My wife, again, is a 21-year algebra teacher in high school. In her district the last few years, required by State law, it requires teachers to visit with the tardy students' parents on a daily basis, and they have a revolving system of every day, every hour, there are two teachers who have during their conference period to visit with parents.

So we see that. Those parents are required to bring, come up to school with their children if they have so many tardies. You see that already, and I see my wife visiting now with lots of parents who want to, so State law already has the opportunity to do that. In fact, my concern about this bill is we are spending time on this committee on it, and there are so many other things that we could do.

I would hope that we could help our local school districts with smaller class sizes, additional teachers, the 100,000 teachers that the President talked about. But before I end, and I know I am going to get a red light in a minute, let me talk a little bit about and brag about Texas, because in 1984 Texas passed a reform, education reform bill, and every session since this then has had to deal with it.

But we have a recent report by the Rand Corporation in January that shows that Texas students are being better educated than students in other States. Credit for this success goes primarily to smaller elementary classes, pre-kindergarten programs and higher standards. We have, under 1984 law we have a limit of 22 to 1 from kindergarten to the fourth grade, which is the best education reform.

That is why I would hope this Congress would realize the benefits of what States have done, and say let's help States like Texas or other States who may not be able to afford it to lower that pupil-teacher ratio so we can really provide for quality education. The Federal Government cannot be providing prescriptive things. We can provide assistance to the local districts and to the States, who are on the front line, whereas we are not.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to the questions.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Green, and thank you again to all three of our colleagues for taking time out of their busy schedules to be with us this morning.

Let me see if I can clarify the concern about unwanted Federal intrusion and/or unnecessary litigation that might ensue from the enactment of Congressman Tiahrt's legislation. I want to be clear, committee staff just handed me a copy of the bill, and as I interpret it, Congressman Tiahrt's legislation provides for funds being withheld under any applicable program; and "applicable program" is, with reference back to the General Education Provisions Act, is defined as any program for which the Secretary of Education or the Department of Education has administrative responsibility as provided by law or by delegation of authority pursuant to law.

So, Congressman Tiahrt, is that a correct interpretation of your legislation, that it that it only applies to those local education agencies or those school districts that receive Federal funding, and it is designed to protect the rights of parents whose children are educated at schools that receive Federal taxpayer funding for education programs or categorical aid?

Mr. Tiahrt. I think you are on track. There is nothing in here that would override State law. There is confusion with the Federal law, and that is all that this really addresses. It does apply to where Federal funds are involved, and it just says if parents request material, the school system has 30 days to provide it. If they don't, they could go to court to seek access to that material, and the full scope of penalties would be that they would get lawyer fees and the school system could potentially have funds withheld, Federal funds withheld during that time until they provide the material.

Chairman Riggs. Let me ask you and Congressman Largent, why do you feel it is necessary to give parents a cause of action, in other words, civil recourse? I am assuming that would be in Federal courts. Why isn't it simply withholding funding?

Mr. Tiahrt. We could have that provision in FERPA, and I believe it is in FERPA. There has been no instance in the last since it has come into existence where funding has been withheld. Yet the problem exists out there. There is still the confusion, both in the school systems and with parents as well as in the State and Federal courts, and this clarification allows parents to act, gives them recourse to act rather than just wait on somebody in the Department of Education to act, which has never occurred.

So this is something, it is an enforcement relief mechanism for parents that they don't have today, and I think it is very necessary.

Mr. Largent. Mr. Chairman, it is my understanding that what this bill really does is just kind of fine tune and bring into focus the original intention of FERPA. Again, the bill is meant to be a preventive measure. The idea is to sensitize the schools to parents in the first place, those that aren't, so that before they administer a test or psychological testing or anything else that is borderline, that they will first at least notify the parents. So the bill is meant to be a preventive measure, not a punitive one.

Chairman Riggs. But you don't have concerns, Congressman Largent, about clogging Federal courts as a result of giving parents the legal recourse to file a civil action?

Mr. Largent. Again, the issue is clarification. I think the clearer that the law is, which is what this bill does, then the less that you will have less litigation as a result of that.

Mr. Tiahrt. If I can add, there will be fewer court cases because we have some clear definitions here. They are very specific, and I think that is one of the goals, is to eliminate that. I think in later testimony you will hear that, as when Representative Green said that where these things exist that you have a better system, you have less of administrative burden. I think it will also lessen the burden that is currently in the court system.

Chairman Riggs. Todd, you know if we move forward with this legislation, we will hear concerns from colleagues who believe that perhaps this is too intrusive or it would bring, as I said earlier, unwanted Federal involvement, further Federal involvement in local education matters, and it might conflict with the long-standing American tradition, the doctrine, if you will, of local control and local decision-making.

You acknowledged that concern in your testimony, but can you elaborate on your argument, your rebuttal to that concern?

Mr. Tiahrt. Well, I think, you know, we currently do have Federal law. There is some involvement with the Federal Government in local schools. This would lessen the involvement, in the fact that it makes clear definitions so parents know what existing rules are. It does not impede States from trying to accomplish the same purpose of bringing parents and schools together for better education of their children.

So I think what this law does is it doesn't increase Federal involvement. It would actually, long-term, reduce it by allowing clear guidelines for school systems to operate by, and as I said in subsequent testimony, I believe you are going to hear that school systems run smoother when you have clear definitions and when you bring parents in. I think that is an admirable goal, and I think we will see the quality of education increase when this legislation becomes law.

Chairman Riggs. But assume for a fact this is the point that I think Congressman Martinez alluded to assume for a moment that both you and Congressman Largent, that I am a locally elected school board member in your district, I am one of your constituents, and I come to you or I find out about the legislation and I say, "I understand and support the intent and purpose behind the legislation, but you should leave it to us to safeguard the rights and the interests of parents. We are locally elected."

Again, as I said earlier, that is very much in keeping with the long-standing American tradition of decentralized public education where that local school district is fairly, should be anyway, fairly autonomous, and that locally elected policy decision-maker, a school board member, is accountable to the voters of that school district and to the parents, the consumers of education in that school district.

Assume I am your constituent, that local school board member. Assume that I am a conservative Republican locally elected school board member. How are you going to respond to them when they tell you that, again, they understand the concept behind the legislation, they support it conceptually, but they still think it will create too many problems at the local level, and again it might usurp or might conflict with the autonomy and the authority of local school boards?

Mr. Largent. Well, I would just say, you know, the premise of your question is that the Federal Government is not in the classroom already. The fact is, it is. If you compare the Federal Government in the classroom to the 800 pound gorilla, what this legislation is doing is saying that we just want to make sure that the parent gets to stay in the classroom too, and has access to the textbooks, the curriculum, the testing, and is involved in a proactive manner, rather than a reactive manner.

So this bill doesn't take the Federal Government further down the road than it already is. It is just clarifying where the road is and that it needs to stay on the road.

Mr. Tiahrt. I would say that by having parents allowed access to the material that is currently there actually reduces Federal involvement, actually reduces administrative burden. It actually brings parents into the process. So it doesn't impose any additional Federal time or money in here. All it simply says is we will provide access for educational material, we will let parents get involved in the process, we will remove those barriers.

I think we will have less of a problem, less of Federal involvement in the classroom and more local control. Parents will be more involved. They will be talking with their school boards. And I think it will improve the quality of education.

Chairman Riggs. I understand that, and I thought those were very good responses. You keep emphasizing access, but the other feature of your bill is consent. Correct?

Mr. Tiahrt. Yes.

Chairman Riggs. I think therein will probably lie the route we are trying to do with reforming Federal bilingual education programs, to require that local school district to first seek the consent and the written permission of the parent before the child can be placed in a native language program, a non-English program.

We have heard some concerns about that creating administrative burden on the local district and the difficulty of and I am not too sympathetic to this but we have heard the concerns about the difficulty of districts communicating with parents and the mechanics of how they actually do that. Do they send a note home with the child? Do they send a certified letter to the home? Do they make repeated phone calls?

So it is the consent aspect that I think is problematical in terms of the actual implementation and administration of your bill, and I want to give you a chance to respond.

Mr. Tiahrt. Some of the administration portions of getting consent, the mechanics, once the system is developed, I think it runs smoothly. But I think you are hard-pressed to argue when you get parents involved that it is not better for the education process. We want to get parents involved.

This bill is rather limited in parental consent. It just says if you are going to require something from a student, when it is related to medical exams or psychological exams or psychiatric exams, that you just get prior written informed consent. It is not for everything in the curriculum. It is limited to examinations that are medical, psychological or psychiatric, so it is somewhat limited.

And it does require that if you are going to go into some questions that would impose on people's privacy, that you get their consent, and I think that is fair. I think we all abide by the concept that this society gives us some privacy and that we should protect that privacy.

So it is somewhat limited in parental consent because it only acts on those areas where we have had particular problems. Once the mechanism is in place, you know, it works smoothly pretty much. My children are in the Fairfax school district now, and we have consent forms for field trips and for specific activities, and the mechanism is in place and it works rather smoothly.

Chairman Riggs. Do you know if those consent forms are mandated by Virginia State law?

Mr. Tiahrt. I do not know the mandate, whether it is the Fairfax County Schools that require it or whether it is Virginia State law, but I know they come home in the mail. We get one notice and two notices, sometimes a phone call if there is no response, but we have yet to get a phone call. You know, it always seems to work well with us.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you. Congressman Martinez.

Mr. Green. Mr. Chairman, may I respond? Let me quote Texas law on consent required for certain activities. That is why I say this bill is a solution in search of a problem. In the Texas education code, an employee of a school district must obtain the written consent of a child's parent before the employee may conduct psychological examination, test, or treatment under the examination tests, make or authorize the use of videotaping and employ a school district for the purposes of safety, including the maintenance of the school or maintenance of discipline and order.

So we already have current State law in Texas on that, and the last thing we need is a Department of Education coming in and saying, well, we are going to overlay because maybe your procedure, and again quoting the bill, in section 2, any education agent that has a policy of denying or effectively prevents now, again, "effectively prevents," I have a pretty good idea of what it may do. But I would worry somebody in Washington, whether it be this administration or some future one, would say the procedure we have in Texas, the administrative procedure we have "effectively prevents" a parent from doing that. Again I think you are giving more power to the Department of Education than I think my colleagues may want to do.

Chairman Riggs. Well, if I just might respond for a moment, I won't quarrel obviously with your interpretation of Texas State law. It sounds to me like it is pretty much on the money.

Congressman Tiahrt's bill, though, or the Tiahrt-Largent legislation goes one step further, and it basically would expand upon Texas State law in those school districts in Texas that receive Federal funding, Federal taxpayer funding for Federal education programs or what I called earlier "applicable programs," to quote actually from the legislation.

I don't see it as conflicting with Texas State law. I see it, as Congressmen Tiahrt and Largent have testified today, strengthening Texas State law. Congressman Martinez.

Mr. Martinez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me begin by saying that I am as adamant as you are about wanting the parents to know what is going on with the children in the school. I had five children and they all went through the public school system, as yours did. There were times when I had conflicts with the school in the way they were doing things, and I was able to, through my local school board, to rectify those things.

I know that a lot of times it is simply that you say the law is vague, and it is vague. Even more than just being vague, the fact is that so many of our citizens aren't aware of the laws that are on the books and what steps to take to remedy any problem they have in their own community.

But before I get into any of that, I want to talk to Steve for a minute. I have a grandchild, I have 14 grandchildren, in fact, but I have one particular grandchild who was a fantastic football fan when he was about 5 years old. When he was 5 years old, my son used to take him to all the Rams games, and the Rams were his favorite team. His second favorite team was Seattle Seahawks. But the amazing thing about it is he knew every player on the Rams team and their number, and every player on the Seattle Seahawks and their number.

Now my grandson is 15 years old and starting his first year in high school, and he is on the freshman team there playing football himself. So I would like to make a request of you. If you have an autographed picture laying around that you can give me to autograph to Mark, that is his name, Mark, I would appreciate it, and one to Jonathan, his brother, who is an avid fan as he is.

Anyway, I think that you know when you look at this bill, it is pretty hard for anybody to say they would be completely against it, except that you are putting into Federal law the ability for people to go to court, to a Federal court, and that is one of the problems. The other problem is that in this bill, we did we had CRS do a survey or search for court cases involving this particular issue, and they didn't come up with any.

So, Steve, you mentioned two cases of tests that were given, one in Pennsylvania and one in Oklahoma. I have got to agree with you, I think any parent would be offended by somebody giving that test. I would just like to ask the question, was that a sex education class? It says science on the top, but was it a sex education class?

Mr. Largent. I think it was a science class that had a section on sexual education, yes.

Mr. Martinez. So it was in conjunction with that portion of the class that dealt with sex education. I still would like to know, and it seems like the bill is getting at trying to get at one problem is that you can't really I don't put a handle on it how to grab hold of it because you are talking about actions that a school may take or a test that a school may give or a curriculum that a school might provide, and you find out about it afterwards. So the harm has already been done, if it is a bad situation.

Your bill does nothing about doing that, except unless the parent themselves want to become very astute about what is happening in their schools and I think they should be and ask for what is the curriculum going to be like afterwards, and I doubt very many parents would do that.

I agree with you maybe this thing wouldn't create a lot of litigation, because the fact is that right now as we search for a CRS search for court cases of this type, we couldn't find any. In the two actions that you cited, were any court cases involved in that?

Mr. Largent. Not to my knowledge.

Mr. Martinez. See --

Mr. Tiahrt. We will be able to provide you, my office will provide you a list of the court cases I am referring in my testimony.

Mr. Martinez. Would you please? You may be able to provide information that CRS wasn't able to. I know they looked through Lexis-Nexis and all of those computer programs, it is garbage in and garbage out. And they may not have all of the information we need.

But I think what we really need is, one, to clarify the vagueness of the law as it is written now, not to add a whole complete law, while maybe you would have to pass a bill to correct that, amend that. You know, if it just dealt with clarifying the vagueness of the law as it exists now, and there is one section there referring to the things that should be available to the parent, I would agree with that.

But the fact is I would not want to where there is local court action, as in the case of Texas, there is remedy available to the parent who has been denied that access, is there not, Mr. Green? Mr. Green?

Mr. Green. I am sorry.

Mr. Martinez. Is there not in Texas and according to the Texas law a remedy for parents who have been denied access to that information?

Mr. Green. There is remedy in the statute. Again, it is also for discipline procedure for personnel. But if I am denied something as a parent, I obviously go to the superintendent well you typically start with your school , your principal, and then you go to the superintendent, your school board. Then you go to the State Education Commissioner or the State-elected school board in Texas, and ultimately you can go to the district court, because you have to exhaust your administrative remedies. Again, just like we do on, you know, worker's comp cases and other things before you go to court.

Mr. Martinez. I would rather see something like that in law that would require a procedure by which parents can and then again we have to make parents aware. You would be surprised how many laws we pass here, like the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, every day I tell people in my district who complain about the IRS, do you know there is a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights?

We pass laws and don't disseminate information, and that is one of the problems that I have had since being here and seeing there are laws on the books if people would enforce them. We don't need more laws, there are so many damn laws now, but the fact is we need to enforce those laws that exist, and we need to clear up the vagueness of those laws if there is vagueness in those laws.

But to create another whole law which then shifts the ability from locals because I come from local government and I have always been a defender of local control. Our school boards are more responsible for our children, and sometimes I know the ebb and flow of the child depends on the quality and caliber of the people elected to the school board, and that is not always the greatest and there is nothing we can do about that, because that is the system of laws that we have.

But I think that we ought to be looking at working with locals and allowing them to set procedures or maybe requiring them even to set procedures, because in this law here, it only affects those that will take Federal dollars, and the Federal dollars is 6 percent. I would hate to see some school district that really needs that 6 percent, because most of them do, being unwilling to take it because it would come under the purview of this new law.

Thank you both for that.

Mr. Green. Mr. Martinez, if I can respond, I know the witness in a few minutes from the Association of Texas Professional Educators supports, like a lot of us, the general idea of the bill but suggests that instead of the procedure H.R. 3189 sets up, to really do a model policy, which I think most States already probably comply with. That would say this is something that you need to accomplish for parental involvement, instead of the way that H.R. 3189 is currently. He will be on the next panel, I believe.

Mr. Martinez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Tiahrt. If I can comment, I just want to say that I appreciate your advocating Texas law. I think they are a good model in trying to bring parents into the process. But this clarification still needs to occur on a Federal law. Texas law cannot do that, it hasn't done that, and the need still exists.

So I think it is important that we do pass this legislation so we can clarify existing Federal law. Again, we would be glad to provide the court cases that have been part of the basis of starting this process.

Mr. Martinez. Just let me respond this way. Well, I would hope that you would be amenable to some amendment to the law to make it in such a way that we could be bipartisan about it and actually do it on a bipartisan basis, because I think both sides of the aisle are tremendously concerned about parents' involvement in their child's education.

Mr. Souder. I think it is safe to say we are at the beginning of a process, not at the end of a process, but this lays out what we would support as a supporter of this bill.

I wanted to clarify with Mr. Tiahrt and Mr. Largent, there is an implication that as conservatives somehow we don't believe this should be in the Federal purview, that this is a State issue. I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions.

As conservatives we believe in the constitutional, national, Federal Bill of Rights. Is that not correct?

Mr. Tiahrt. I think that is safe to assume.

Mr. Souder. We believe that religious freedom is a Federal issue, is that not correct?

Mr. Tiahrt. Correct.

Mr. Souder. We believe that civil rights are a Federal issue. Do both of you support the right to life being a Federal issue?

In other words, there is nothing inherently that says that basic rights aren't Federal issues. We believe that education should be run at the local level, but it doesn't mean that we don't believe that basic rights aren't a Federal issue.

Also, one other thing. In this country, in fact, while States may do a good job of protecting civil rights in some cases, we have had a national precedence that we decided that basic human rights and civil rights are a Federal issue; and we weren't going to trust certain basic human rights and civil rights at the State level. We fought a Civil War over that question. We have had repeated battles in Federal legislation.

There are three bills, including the Students Right to Know, FERPA, which we have already referred to, and one other, the Protection of Pupils Rights Act, that I actually worked an amendment through a few years ago on the education bill when I had a survey to my eighth grade son asking if they had anal sex and oral sex in the classroom distributed at the school. I was offended as a parent.

While that wasn't a direct Department of Education, the first moving vehicle was an education bill where I attached an amendment.

Furthermore, in this committee, in the Student Right to Know Act, we had the same people coming forth arguing this was Federal legislation, that we shouldn't have to release university data on rapes on the campuses because it is not a Federal issue, students don't have a right to know, trust the States, trust the universities, it might discourage different people.

We had a debate in this committee whether these were Federal or local issues, and Congress voted that certain basic civil rights are there.

Is not one of the points of this you have addressed the litigation question already at length, but, in fact, if your bill becomes law, is it not true that it is likely to have a chilling effect on the type of surveys that we saw earlier?

Mr. Tiahrt. It would be my opinion that it would have a chilling effect. Once this openness exists, there will be no closed doors. Parents will have access to information that they need to help with their children's education.

That would stop a lot of these people who have put out tests like that you referred to for your son and that Representative Largent has handed out which occurred in Miami, Oklahoma. Those things would stop because they do not withstand the scrutiny of the public eye. When parents have the ability to see that, I think it will stop a lot of the problems that we have today.

Mr. Largent. The intent is that this legislation is really refining or bringing into focus more clearly the FERPA law which is already on the books. It would be more of a preventive nature than punitive.

So that not only, as Mr. Martinez said, parents need an education as far as the laws and the rights that they have that are available to them and the recourse that is available to them, but educators also need an education in terms of sensitizing them more so to parents' prerogative and direction and sensitivity to psychological testing, sex education and those types of issues.

Mr. Souder. And part of this type of approach, in the case of the survey that was passed out by a school magazine at the school where my son was, the fact is that it was very embarrassing to my kids. In fact, the school board convened; and they changed the policies of how they were going to do it, which is what Mr. Green referred to as a process. But, I as a parent, had we had this type of law, it is unlikely that the school would have gotten into the first place, put my children in the awkward position of having to, in effect, go squeal because the parents didn't know and the parents having to go fight.

Mr. Green. We have a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which is Federal. We have laws which protect workers in the workplace that are Federal. We have drug and alcohol laws that are Federal. Why wouldn't this be a Federal question as well? It is a basic right of parents with their children.

No doubt. I would hope, Mr. Souder, if my children were in the eighth grade in Miami, Oklahoma, it wouldn't take an act of Congress to get this test out of the school.

Mr. Souder. The question is, could an act of Congress prevent the test from being there in the first place?

Mr. Green. I don't think that this bill will do that. It says, you have access to those tests. In Texas, we already have access to that information.

Parents oftentimes do not know it until after the fact, just like my colleague said. We have the ability right now if a parent had access to this test in the State of Texas right now, you better believe they would go to their school board member or their superintendent or principal; and that test without even passing this law, that test would be taken out of the school.

This bill does not require it doesn't require the parent to know the test before it is administered. It only requires the parent the access to it.

If a parent doesn't go to the school maybe their children didn't bring a copy of the test home whether this bill is passed won't help at all.

What we have to do is encourage parents. We already do that on I say "we" because I have school board members who are friends and neighbors, and they do that right now. But they get frustrated because they don't have parental involvement, which is required by State law for school districts to involve parents now.

Mr. Souder. But you are not requiring that school boards that are paralyzed by the fear of lawsuits aren't going to be more cautious if they know that there is a lawsuit potential?

Mr. Green. My first concern in my opening remarks, you are right, school districts are paralyzed by the fear of going to Federal court.

I don't think that this bill again, we have State action already. You can go to State court. I think that may be the best venue instead of providing another way that school boards could be taken to Federal courts. Let's let State courts take care of it. I would hope that we wouldn't have to have a Federal law to get this test out of a school in Oklahoma or Texas or wherever.

Mr. Souder. I yield to the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Payne.

Mr. Payne. Thank you, very much.

I certainly agree with the panel that there needs to be more parental involvement, and I am sort of shocked that a test of this nature would be given. It would not be given in the school district where I taught in Norton, New Jersey, for a number of years. I am kind of shocked that it was given wherever it was. Perhaps they need to have a stronger school board.

I am a little confused not so much about the legislation, because I haven't had an opportunity to thoroughly read it, but I am confused about the philosophy. Because, on the one hand, since the new majority came in, I have been hearing about Federal intrusion, States' rights, welfare, for example, better run by the States and counties. Everything has been back to the local people. The local folks know the problem better.

And I am a little shocked really. Of course, I support the role of the Federal Government. I think the bigger the better. Maybe that is why we are in the minority right now. We wandered for 40 years, and so I can't expect you guys to have your act together in 4, and that is why I am so confused about this business, and I respect both of you guys.

I will take a picture, also. I have a grandson, too.

Mr. Largent. We will be glad to give you a picture.

Mr. Payne. Just the contradictions. A hundred thousand policemen on the street; great, everybody supports it. A hundred thousand new teachers for the school districts; opposed to it, totally incongruent. It just doesn't make sense.

That is why I am confused at and I did hear a new term about I guess it is refining. I guess when you feel that the Federal Government should come in like this, it is refining the law; but when you want the Federal Government out, it is local control.

I think, as a matter of fact, I have seen probably the most concerted effort on any political level by people who believe in the Christian Coalition's philosophy. And I think there are a number of good points. I am a very strong Baptist; and black Baptists are very, very conservative. And so I have seen school boards all over the country in a concerted effort being taken over by efforts of the right, and I think they are probably the most significant change in any political level. I don't know whether that is good or bad, but it appears that people on a local level are exerting their influence. And so, as I indicated, I am truly confused as to the strong support of all of my conservative colleagues on this question of Federal intrusion.

As a matter of fact, in New Jersey we have the only State constitution in the country that guarantees a thorough and efficient education. It is more progressive than any State.

Now, the Federal courts I mean the State courts have recently said that the State is not providing a thorough and efficient education and have told the State legislature that they must come up with several hundred million dollars for the poor 30 districts in the State. Because when our State constitution was written it guaranteed a thorough and efficient education, and so there was the Bonner decision where a person sued the State because they didn't get a thorough and efficient education.

So I think we don't go from the particular to the universal to pass out this obnoxious test that someone did in some little town I don't even know. I thought Miami was in Florida. But Miami, Oklahoma, that is like going from the particular to the universal.

Because you have a silly, simple obnoxious test somewhere that you pass a Federal law that covers 270 million people, to me, you know, like I said, I am more confused about the concept of the Federal Education Department more or less, which most conservatives feel should be abolished in the first place, not having more power.

I don't have any specific questions, but I agree that there should be more parental involvement. I wish we could legislate it, but we can't. We have to work at a local level and push people into being more concerned about their children. We are even starting to attempt to come up with some new concepts in my local school district as to how that can be done.

Like I said, I applaud you for your interest. I just think that we are sort of, in my opinion, going in the wrong direction as relates to this issue.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Tiahrt. If I could comment. I agree that we agree on a common goal of trying to get parents involved. And you are right. You can't legislate that. All we can do is remove those barriers that prevent that from occurring.

As to States' rights issue, as a conservative I believe in States' rights and have worked for those issues, but there are some basic rights which are Federal issues civil rights, for example.

I think the Supreme Court decision has indicated that parents do have some basic rights in seeing that their children have a good quality education, and all this does is clarify existing Federal law. We are not writing a new statute. We are trying to bring parents into this process.

We can't prevent a test like this passed out here from Miami, Oklahoma, but by having parents involved we can bring an openness to education that is healthy. Bring an openness that will help remove these barriers so that this openness will prevent tests like this from ever being circulated again. It removes the barriers that prevent parents from actively contributing into these areas; and once those barriers are removed, I think we will see a higher quality of education. I think we will see tests like this being prevented before they even occur.

Mr. Souder [Presiding.] I ask unanimous consent to insert into the record a values test that I was given by a parent from Casa Robla High School in the San Juan Unified School District in California, which turned out to be very similar to the survey distributed in Pennsylvania, showing it was moving nationally.


Mr. Souder. I also ask that the survey from Miami, Oklahoma, be placed in the record and somehow we put a warning, but I think it is impossible for people who read this record for historical purposes to understand what we are debating without having that in the record.

Any objection? If not so ordered.


Mr. Souder. Mr. Scott, the gentleman from Virginia.

Mr. Scott. Thank you. I was delayed at another hearing, and I would like to thank the witnesses for testifying. I will just yield back the balance of my time so we can get on with the panel. I appreciate the members coming.

Mr. Souder. Thank you, Mr. Scott. You have been a leader in many of the juvenile issues.

With that, the first panel is adjourned. And will the second panel come forward?

The second panel includes John Reinhard, who is a parent of three children and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His interest in school matters arose from concerns regarding the parental rights in the schools. He serves as Chairman of the school's governance committee at Phillips Knoll School in Chapel Hill and presently serves as a board member of the governing body that oversees two charter schools in Chapel Hill and in Orange County, North Carolina.

Mrs. Cindy DeLullo is a parent from Charles Town, West Virginia. She is a full-time homemaker and mother of four. She has been actively involved in her children's education for 12 years. She has been a strong advocate for a greater role of parents in the schools and generally having a greater role in the education of their children.

Mr. Larry Davis is a mathematics teacher from Waco, Texas. He is president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators. Mr. Davis has taught in the public school system at the secondary level for 18 years and is the parent of two children, both of whom attended public schools.

Mr. Jim Means hails from Wichita, Kansas. Currently, he is the principal of Wichita High School West. His school is part of the Wichita Public School District which is the largest public school district in the four-State region of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. He has been involved in public education in Kansas for 16 years.

Mr. Jeff Taylor is Acting Director for Governmental Affairs for the Christian Coalition.

Mr. Daniel Domenech is superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools and president-elect of the American Association of School Administrators. My children used to attend the Fairfax public schools but left before you came in when I went back and ran for Congress.

Mr. Souder. Dr. Reinhard will go first. If you haven't been able to see, you have 5 minutes for your testimony; and the yellow light will come on with a minute to go.



Mr. Reinhard. I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak before this committee on what I consider to be a very important issue.

I am the parent of three students in the Chapel Hill City School District. My oldest child has since chosen to leave the school district and obtain a GED instead. He did so in opposition to a program of mandatory community service which, while it had no avowed educational merit, was nonetheless imposed upon us by our elected school board.

When we opposed this in court, we were told that schools did not have to justify any of their actions because, quote, parents have no fundamental rights in the direction of their children's education, end quote. And it is for that reason that I strongly support this legislation and only wish it could go further and render as fundamental the right of a parent to direct the education of their child.

As I said, I am in support of this legislation; and I am glad to see that Representative Ballenger will probably support it; and I would certainly invite my representative, David Price from the Fourth District, to represent it as well.

I am saddened that the very process of education has been politicized by partisan groups such as the National Education Association that have come into the local level and virtually dictate, certainly in Chapel Hill, who is elected to school boards.

It is a process through which the very process of democracy can be corrupted. The very fact that this bill should have to come up is a sad reflection of the state of our republic in 1998. I can't imagine why anyone would object to parents wanting to know what their children are taught.

And in response to an earlier remark by Representative Martinez requesting whether this has been in court, I would ask how many times the Federal Freedom of Information Act has been invoked so that parents can get this information.

I believe that parents have a responsibility if not a moral obligation to question the content of a school's curricula; and I don't want to sound inflammatory, but I will cite two examples from our school system in Chapel Hill.

The first arose from the school's "multicultural education action plan for the promotion of respect for diversity." It is a mouthful.

A required English course would involve work by gay and lesbian authors, and understand this was not an opt out. The reading list provided by the instructor may not have been adequately reviewed. When concerned parents objected, we tried to read some of the works on the reading list at a school board meeting, and we were told we couldn't because it was indecent. If it was indecent at a school board meeting, how could it have been decent for our children?

The reading list really was just unbelievable. Some of the vulgar material would never have withstood peer review from the community. You just don't get into sadomasochism and acts of homosexuality in your children's education. If nothing else, this bill would make it harder to slip objectionable material into our children's curriculum.

My second illustration was an article my son had removed from the media center of the high school. The articles about marijuana use were unusual in the manner that it was depicted. "Illicit weed generates cash for university grad." Quotations such as, "I've had a very good year. I dress nicely now. I go on trips anywhere in the world," are little more than an advertisement for the cultivation and use of a controlled substance.

Still, one may question why is it necessary to legislate common sense. In response, Voltaire noted that "common sense is not altogether common." Indeed, common sense is a most uncommon commodity in many of our schools. The deviation from common sense is a mission creep that our schools have embraced. Rather than teaching numeracy, literacy, history and geography, our schools have been laboratories for testing education theories. Our children are the unwitting subjects. Moreover, the experiments are not properly designed or justified.

I am a biological scientist. I am charged with the responsibility of conducting interpretable experiments. We use laboratory animals and are beholden to a number of Federal and State regulations that limit the scope of our investigation.

In sharp contrast, our education experiments which are not based on sound hypotheses, they involve our children without our consent. We do not know whether they are going to provide a definitive answer or even if they are harmful.

If we were to test medicine with unproven safety and efficacy in patients without their consent, we would be guilty of malpractice. What we witness today is tantamount to malpractice in education, and our children have less protection from unsound experimentation than do laboratory rats.

The answer is to empower parents to become involved in their children's education. It sounds simple, but it is not. H.R. 3189 will provide a financial incentive for schools to cooperate with parents.

I recognize that there is much this proposed legislation will not accomplish. However, it is a small step for parents that will indeed be a large step for the future of our society.

Thank you.

Mr. Souder. Thank you.



Mr. Souder. Mrs. DeLullo.


Mrs. DeLullo. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. I want to thank you for allowing me this opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee today.

I am Cindy DeLullo; and I am a resident of Jefferson County, which is a small, rural community located in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, only about 70 miles west of the Washington metropolitan area.

I am a full-time homemaker and mother of four school-aged children. I have been actively involved in my children's education for more than 12 years. My husband and I chose early in our marriage that the children would not grow up in a household with both parents working full time. This necessitated many sacrifices financially for our family, but we have never regretted our decision. Although we live a modest life-style, we feel it is more important to ensure that our children have a sound family support system than to have meaningless material things.

For this reason, I have always made every effort to ensure that my children obtain a proper education. Over the years I have come to realize, however, that good intentions from parents are not often viewed by educators in a welcomed fashion.

What I have discovered through my experiences is that this endeavor of parenting is being restricted by educational bureaucracies that would rather preserve their own position than adhere to the laws protecting constitutional and civil liberties of students and families upon which FERPA is based.

It is my belief that the responsibility for a child's education, physical, social and emotional well-being rests primarily with the parents. When these parental protections are ripped from us like threads in a seam, it will not only be detrimental to our children but it will set the stage to further unravel the basic framing of our Constitution.

I am pleased to know that the Congress is taking another look at the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act in light of parental concerns nationwide.

I, too, am one of these concerned parents. I have encountered numerous situations with the public school system in my district where public school officials have either ignored or purposely violate children and parents' rights. One most recent incident, in fact, occurred just last week in Jefferson County, West Virginia, where the public school system attempted to subject students to a research study by a private physician.

I was shocked to have received in the mail a notification from my daughter's school only informing parents of the study but not requiring written parental permission for the student's participation. What was clearly evident in the notice was that the school officials and the physician would assume that the child would be participating unless the parent notified them otherwise, this is what we call "permission by omission," a tactic that is frequently used with regards to research studies, medical evaluations, screenings and immunizations.

Another situation involved an incident which originally occurred about a year ago when the superintendent disclosed private information about my child during an open public school board meeting a meeting at which I was not in attendance. I accidentally discovered this disclosure some time later when I was reading a copy of the board's published minutes from that meeting.

In light of the fact that this was the second incident where the school board had discussed my child's confidential information at an open public school board meeting, I filed another complaint on May 16, 1997, with the U.S. Department of Education. To my surprise, I received a postcard dated June 9, 1997, stating the following: "Due to the large amount of correspondence this office receives, we currently have a backlog. However, your letter is important to us and we are actively working to provide you a detailed response as soon as possible."

I immediately contacted my U.S. Senator from my State, expressing my dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy, delays and obvious potential violations of regulatory time lines for responses.

After approximately 10 months I finally received a response from the Family Policy Compliance Office. Through this entire tedious process we have yet to receive any relief from the local district or from the U.S. Department of Education who is mandated to oversee and enforce compliance.

Mr. Chairman, we could probably sit here all day for hours on end and discuss infractions of FERPA regulations that occur just in our district alone. It seems fruitless for parents to take an active role in their child's education not only to protect them but to further promote good education.

It appears to me that the bottom line is accountability, and there is no enforcement mechanisms in place for the Family Policy Compliance Office to take swift and immediate action to penalize such violation.

Mr. Chairman, you and I both know that the Secretary of Education is not going to take away Federal funds from Jefferson public schools just because they continually violate my child's rights or someone else's rights. The public school officials know there is no penalty personally or professionally. Thank you very much.

Mr. Souder. Thank you.



Mr. Souder. Mr. Davis.



Mr. Davis. I am a high school teacher. I spend a lot of time with parents on a daily basis talking about some of the issues that are brought forth in this.

I also have a full-time job as president of ATPE. With 88,000 members in the State of Texas, it is the largest non-union, independent State professional educators' association.

So, in both instances, I spend a lot of time with parents and dealing with parents. Most of the educators that I deal with are also parents.

We basically endorse this bill. We believe in strong support for parental access sought by the bill. However, we have a little bit of problem with some of the ways it is being proposed. We would like to propose a model initiative policy versus what is currently in it. We want to add to it, not change it.

What this would do is, the State Commissioner of Education would have 1 year to adopt or design and adopt a policy which would use a percent of the Federal money being used for this. And this will be submitted to the local boards, and the local boards would have 1 year to consider the State policy or, if they don't do it that way, they can also come up with an alternative method. Some school boards have these already in place, and Texas has had this in line since 1995.

Representative Green hinted that there was a problem in relation to this. If a State already had it in effect, what would they do? We are proposing a waiver system. The State commissioners could submit a waiver to the Department of Education. The policy is already in effect. Also, if the policy was being developed in the State, you would not have to directly follow the Federal guidelines because you would already have one in line at the State level.

One other concern we have is, if it is done at a local level, collective bargaining is not involved. We do not want it to be an issue on a local level in connection with collective bargaining.

The other thing involved in this is basically parental involvement. If we are doing the model on the State level, we need parental involvement on the State level. We need to notify the parents what is happening and have them come and talk and give advice. At the State level, we need to do the same thing and have parents directly involved.

This particular model would bring forth the concept that there is parental involvement. That is what you are trying to get at right here, parental involvement in the situation.

If a local alternative method is developed, then the local alternative method must include the issues that are currently in H.R. 3189; and the local school boards have to consider something that is being brought forward by the public also.

I noticed in the bill that you are excluding standardized tests. In the State of Texas, we do not exclude standardized tests. We have a Texas assessment of academic skills, and the test is allowed to be shown after the test is given.

I do have a problem, though, with going into a prior year. That presents a problem with educators. They have to go back and dig out a test that is given in the prior year.

As far as legal recourse, I am concerned about Federal versus State courts. I agree with Representative Green in the sense that we need to follow the chain of command of the school district. You go to the principal, the superintendent and up the chain of command to the school board and then to the State and then to the Federal court.

In summation, ATPE supports parental excess measures contained in this bill. We are supporting the bill. However, we would like to see the model policy initiative put into effect allowing parental involvement.

In forming that particular issue, the State has 1 year, the local has 1 year, and at the end of 2 years you would have something in effect across the United States.

ATPE offers their assistance in passing an amended version of H.R. 3189. We offer our help in this sense to develop the model such as we are talking about. We also express our appreciation to Congressman Tiahrt for bringing this before this committee and for the hearing.


Mr. Souder. I am going to recess the hearing while we vote.

I want to say that your testimony was very helpful, Mr. Davis. As we work through this bill we will see what we can accommodate, but those are the types of specific objections and recommendations which are very helpful.

The committee stands in recess.


Mr. Souder. I want to apologize for being a couple minutes late. I had a school group that had been waiting out on the steps. Dr. Domenech, I understand that you have some time problems; and we will move to you.



Mr. Domenech. Thank you.

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee. My name is Daniel Domenech, and I present my views today as Superintendent of Schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, and as President of the American Association of School Administrators, which is the professional association of more than 15,000 local superintendents and school executives.

From my vantage point and from that of my colleagues, Mr. Chairman, this bill, despite its sympathetic title, is unnecessary and unhelpful. It is a solution in search of a problem.

Public education is a responsibility of State and local governments, and the U.S. government should not involve itself in this routine aspect of running a local school division.

As a matter of fact, when I first came into the meeting and I was listening to some of the conversations, it kind of reminded me of one of our local board of education meetings; and I was wondering why the U.S. Congress would be involved in such a discussion.

Access by parents to instructional materials and to information about assessment of their children is well understood to be not only a right of parents but a benefit to school personnel. We want parent involvement in the schools. We do include our parents in the selection of materials. We provide opportunities for viewing the materials. We teach them about the purposes and methods of assessment, and we help them analyze their own children's test performance.

Let's use my school system as an example. Fairfax County public schools has policies and procedures which any citizen, parent or not, may access and challenge any instructional materials used by students, whether basal, supplemental library, print or non-print. A number of materials are routinely made available by the school system, even when there has been no specific request for them.

For example, copies of textbooks under consideration for adoption are located in several places, public libraries, district offices for perusal by the public. The school division has run instructional videos over our educational television channel to facilitate parental review and get input from our parents and the community prior to adoption by our board of education.

PTA and parent meetings are held for the purpose of explaining system-wide and standardized tests. Most test papers are graded, returned and sent home sometimes for parent signature, particularly if the grade is not that good.

Individual parent-teacher conferences are held for review of any individual child's performance on a test. Fairfax County public schools provide numerous opportunities for appeals of instructional materials, culminating in the final decision of the school board. At that point, the Code of Virginia takes over, providing that any parent of a pupil attending the public schools in a school division who is aggrieved by an action of the school board and not satisfied with that school board's decision may petition the circuit court having jurisdiction.

My point is that school divisions and States are providing the access envisioned by this proposal. Parents don't need relief from the Federal Government. Moreover, I am troubled by the quick resort to court served up by this bill. We already live in a highly litigious society. We do not need to force the threat of litigation into the parent-school relationship yet again.

Under this bill, if a parent thinks the school has violated his right by not doing everything he has asked within 30 days, you are in court with equitable or declaratory relief, reasonably incurred litigation costs and attorney's fees in sight.

States and school divisions have met the spirit of this bill through State statutes and regulations and local board of education policies. The Federal hammer is not needed.

Passage of this legislation could increase tension between parents and teachers, instead of fostering the collaborative relationships essential for student learning. Using it as another method of enforcement could add considerably to a school division's administrative costs. Wouldn't we all prefer to spend our education dollars in the classroom rather than the courtroom?

Thank you very much for your invitation to testify.

Chairman Riggs. [Presiding.] I must apologize to you and the other witnesses. I was called over to the floor where we were debating the bill that we just voted on. It was a motion to go to conference with the Senate on a comprehensive or omnibus education reform bill, and so I had to be there.

I apologize to you and the other witnesses, but I do hope that we have an opportunity for discussion after our other witnesses have testified, and I want to wish you well in your new position.

I guess I should say for the record that my wife and I are the parents of one child in Fairfax County public schools. So we will be watching you closely, and we will insist on our right to know. We appreciate very much your testimony.


Chairman Riggs. I recognize, Mr. Means. Thank you for being with us this morning.



Mr. Means. Thank you for having me here, and let me say what a privilege it has been to come from Wichita and share some information about my district. What an eye-opening and learning experience the last 18 hours have been, seeing our government in action.

The Wichita public schools is the largest public school district in the State of Kansas and, as was mentioned in the introduction, in the four-State region of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa, with a full-time and part-time staff of over 5,400 employees, a faculty of more than 3,300 teachers, more than 200 administrators and over 1,800 support staff.

Wichita public schools serves more than 47,800 students in grades K-12, which consists of 58 elementary schools, 16 middle schools and 12 high schools. I have been an employee of the Wichita public schools for 16 years and the school administrator for 10.

The Wichita public schools has, as a part of its board policy, a policy which specifically addresses the opportunity for parents or lawful custodians to inspect instructional materials, including the teachers' manuals, films, tapes or other supplementary material which is used in connection with the pupil's education program. That is 1849, Pupil Rights and Parental Involvement.

Need for this policy became apparent as the district programs approached sensitive material such as sex education and AIDS education and an advisement program which included goal setting and decision making. Also, some parents had voiced concern about surveys given in the school setting which inquired about issues which those parents felt were private family matters or were not relevant to the education programs of the school.

The administrative implementation of this policy directed that the responsible party obtain written consent from the lawful custodian prior to student participation which requests personal information relative to political affiliations, sexual attitudes, confidential relationships, income or self-incriminating behavior. Also, each school was given responsibility for giving notice of this policy to the parent or lawful custodian.

Much time and effort is dedicated to including these processes within the enrollment process, written notification to the parent or lawful custodian of district policies which pertain to possessions of weapons, controlled substances, access to the Internet, and expectations for attendance and student behavior. In this way, the schools can address concerns before problems arise which would require more administrative time than the planning that was required to go into this program.

Opportunities are scheduled and provided for parents to preview materials used in sex and AIDS education curriculum prior to that instruction taking place, and opportunities are also provided for parents or lawful custodians to request that students opt out of these programs.

We eventually went from an opt-in approach. Some students lose field trip forms and written consents, and we felt if we went to an opt in, where the student would be considered part of the program until the school had received written confirmation that the parents supported that program, might be a better way in making sure that contact with those parents were successfully completed.

It is my opinion that, though these efforts are time intensive, they do provide the school, students or lawful custodians a certain sense of the security that these issues are understood by all parties involved. Concerns for parents or lawful custodians do still occur from time to time, but this school district policy puts in place an avenue for parents to seek and obtain the information they desire, and the school to document that parent notification is taking place.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Means. Maybe I should say Principal Means.



Chairman Riggs. Now we go to Jeff Taylor, who is here from the Christian Coalition.



Mr. Taylor. Chairman Riggs and Members of the Subcommittee, it is a pleasure to appear before you today regarding H.R. 3189, the Parental Freedom of Information Act. As Acting Director of Government Relations for the Christian Coalition, I am pleased to offer our support for this important legislation.

The Christian Coalition has consistently argued for legislation that supports the autonomy and primacy of the family, and specifically the rights of parents to provide for the material, social, educational and spiritual needs of their own children.

This commitment is demonstrated in our support for a broad range of legislation, whether it is State laws that support the right of a parent to be notified and give consent to a minor child seeking an abortion or the elimination of the marriage tax penalty that has existed for far too long in the Federal Tax Code.

The Parental Freedom of Information Act will serve to clarify the rights of the parents under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. While FERPA provides for some parental access rights, there has been some confusion regarding the meaning of the term "educational records." Even though the original floor debate on FERPA made clear that this term was to include items such as curriculum and testing materials, the application of this intent has been far from consistent. The Parental FOIA Act will provide the needed clarification by requiring educational institutions to provide parents reasonable access to instructional or testing materials.

Another weakness of FERPA was its failure to provide a private right of action for those parents seeking access. Instead, FERPA leaves enforcement in the hands of the omnipotent Secretary of Education to determine if an institution is ineligible for educational funding due to FERPA violations. This is corrected under the Parental FOIA bill by allowing the parent to bring an action in court to enforce compliance.

Members of the committee, this is common-sense legislation. Parents should not be forced to go into court, as they have in some instances, in order to exercise their right for information on the education affecting their children. Parents have a right to examine the content of the curriculum their child is expected to master and also, with certain exceptions, the contents of testing materials used with their child.

Another key aspect of this legislation is its support for the principle that any medical, psychological or other related evaluations of children at school should not be conducted without the express consent of the parents.

I would like to describe just one example of the need for this legislation. In the spring of 1994, Maureen O'Connell, a mother and member of the local school committee in Falmouth, Massachusetts, asked to see the standardized test on her son's fourth grade class that he had just taken. She assumed that Falmouth officials would be glad to make the test available. She was wrong.

Mrs. O'Connell was informed that these State assessment tests were confidential. As she delved more deeply into this mystery, she discovered that, while the U.S. Department of Education claimed that the Massachusetts scores would not be calculated individually, every answer sheet was bar-coded. It also struck her as odd that there were more than a dozen versions of the tests for each grade.

Mrs. O'Connell also made the disturbing discovery that personal questions were included in these State assessments, questions such as how frequently these fourth graders talked about school at home and how well their parents spoke the English language. She became suspicious about what other personal questions were asked and why the State did not want her to find out about them.

In 1996, when the assessment period began, she was again refused permission to see the 1994 series but was granted the limited viewing of the multiple choice section only for fourth, eighth and tenth grade tests. However, she was not shown the essay questions; and she was forbidden from taking notes.

She sought complete copies of the 1994 tests under the Massachusetts Freedom of the Information statute. This was a broad statute defining public records as all materials or data, made or received by any officer or employee of any agency of the State. Test questions were exempted only if they were part of a licensing examination, such as for medical boards or the bar exam.

Mrs. O'Connell had requested a ruling from the Secretary of State who oversaw the State's records as to whether the 1994 State assessments were public documents subject to the Freedom of Information statute. Given the broad definition of the public records, a ruling in her favor could have been made over the secretary's coffee break. Instead, it took 3 months.

Meanwhile, to keep Mrs. O'Connell from gaining access to the tests, the State Education Commissioner quietly arranged to have the Freedom of Information law altered by burying a new loophole in a major budget bill. The loophole barred the public from access to any State test, examination or assessment instrument. And, in a demonstration of out-of-control bureaucrats, the department then argued that Mrs. O'Connell's request to see the tests should be retroactively disqualified.

The only bright light in this whole story is that the Secretary of State did the right thing by ruling that the 1994 assessments were indeed public documents and ordered the Education Department to turn them over to Mrs. O'Connell within 10 days or face enforcement by the attorney general.

That was in August of 1996, but when this story was reported in the Boston Globe in December, Mrs. O'Connell still had not received the documents. This story begs the question, what was in the 2-year-old tests that Massachusetts was so desperately committed to hiding from Mrs. O'Connell and parents like her?

We are not sure if this test was Federally funded. If this particular test had a funding component through Federal funds, I think there is at least a question that is raised whether this example would be corrected by the Parental FOIA bill.

It is this example along with the other personal examples that you have heard from the parents and teachers here today that demonstrate the real need for this clarifying legislation. If school administrators and teachers are sincere about their desire that parents become more involved in the education of their children and I do believe that most administrators and teachers are then they will support the right of access for parents that this bill guarantees.

And if Congress is sincere about its commitment to the families of this Nation and their belief that parents have the best interests of their children in mind, then you will send this to the full committee and then onto the House floor for a vote.

Thank you for your attention and interest in this legislation.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Taylor, and all of the witnesses on this panel. Again my apologies for having to step out.


Chairman Riggs. Let me ask, for any member of this panel who would like to respond, your opinion on how this legislation might affect the movement to adopt some form of standardized testing as part of a larger system of competency-based advancement.

Let me state that I am very much opposed to the Federal Government trying to construct any kind of national test for all of the reasons that we have debated in this particular Congress; and, furthermore, I do support the ban on national testing, strongly support it. And the legislation that I just referred to a moment ago, the legislation that the Senate is sending over to the House contains a ban proposed by Senator Ashcroft of Missouri on national testing in reading and math; and that is very similar to the bill authored by the Chairman of the full committee, Chairman Goodling, House Resolution 2846.

That all said, I do recognize that many States, in fact some of your home States, are adopting standardized testing. I am well aware, obviously, of the effort to adopt standardized testing or a system of standards in tests in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For anybody who would like to respond, do you have an opinion as a matter of fact, maybe I will start with Dr. Domenech how this legislation could affect that movement under way in most of the States and in many local school districts around the country?

Mr. Domenech. Well, Mr. Chairman, I believe the impact certainly would be problematic, to say the least.

There is, of course, a policy involving most States and I recently arrived from the State of New York where these kinds of State testing have been commonplace for many years, and, as a matter of fact, the tests that have been administered in the past that are no longer under the security provisions are made available to parents and students and anyone who wants them. But the development of norm-reference, standardized tests is a very rigorous and difficult process; and the security of those tests needs to be preserved as long as the tests are being administered. So to allow this information to be made public at the request of a parent obviously would be a serious issue.

Now, my understanding, though, based on the language of H.R. 3189 now, is that your definition of test materials would exclude standardized tests; is that correct?

Chairman Riggs. That is correct.

Mr. Domenech. So I think the language and the definition as it currently exists certainly would not come into play in the example that Mr. Taylor was mentioning before, the tests administered by Massachusetts or any other State, for that matter.

But the basis is not to deny parents access to these materials but rather the rigor that is involved in maintaining the security and the validity of those tests if they are to be re-administered.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Davis, you have a unique perspective on this particular legislation because you are both a classroom teacher and the parent of two children?

Mr. Davis. Yes. For standardized tests, Texas has an academic skills test, and the way we are allowing the parents to see the tests is we have six tests that we rotate.

We also have pilot problems on each test that the parents do not get to see so that we are putting pilot test problems in at the same time, and we have six or eight, so that gives us some database for new tests.

I do have a problem if we go back to prior tests because that way we would be allowing the student to see two tests. That would be creating a problem for us since we only have six tests to rotate.

Chairman Riggs. Mrs. DeLullo and Mr. Reinhard, thank you for being here.

Do you think that Congressman Tiahrt's legislation gets at the concerns of so many parents who have decided to home school their children? Because we hear those concerns and sometimes vehement objections to the kind of, if you will, values and instruction being imparted in many of our public schools. And if you think that the legislation gets at the concerns of home schoolers, what effect do you think it ultimately would have on the home school movement?

Mrs. Delullo. Besides FERPA, parents take their children out for other reasons. I don't think it is just because they cannot review the content of the curriculum.

I do believe that FERPA needs to be reinforced; but, once again, it is a policy. And unless it is practiced, a policy is moot unless there is effective action with it to make sure that it can and will be implemented.

I think in our district alone or in the State of West Virginia we are sort of behind at the State level for policies and legitimate enforcement. We don't have a thorough enforcement mechanism in place adequately at the State level or the county level to go back and seek some assistance.

I will give you one example. I met with the physician who last week wanted to do research without parental permission, and she was told not to contact me. And she called me. She said, they are not giving me any information, but I need to talk to someone. We did meet and she was kind of shocked that she was able to do it, too, but nobody said anything.

I think in research, medical, immunizations and things of that nature, there needs to be a trust mechanism. I am not saying that educators are bad, and I don't mean to imply that. A lot of times it is because no one follows through on it, and I think we need enforcement at the State levels and have the States enforce at the county level.

But we don't have that enforcement mechanism even within the FERPA department at the U.S. Department of Education. They are too busy to take a look at each parent complaint.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Reinhard, do you have an opinion how this legislation would affect the home schooling movement and would it address the concerns of parents who home school?

Mr. Reinhard. If I could just comment briefly, I know many people who home school and these are among the most committed parent volunteers. It is an enormous burden that they undertake, and they undertake it because they feel that they have been betrayed by the public schools that no longer seek to teach literary and numeracy. And by opening to public scrutiny that which is their curriculum and testing mechanisms, I think if they are genuine it will bring the home schoolers back. But if they insist on further deviating from what we consider to be education, it will, of course, drive them further and further away from the public system.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Taylor?

Mr. Taylor. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Home schoolers are some of the most dedicated activists in this country, and they can light up the phones as quickly as anyone can. Anything that would tend to balance out the scales in terms of information provided to parents as opposed to information that is readily available to educators or to administrators would assist them in their efforts to weigh the balance, whether they remain in home schooling, which we fully support, or if they decide to come back and give public schools another chance.

Chairman Riggs. One other question and that is the question of how the bill would work and whether it should be construed as an opt in or opt out.

I may have misunderstood, Mr. Means, but I thought I understood you to say that your school and your district had gone to an opt out, and the way I interpret Congressman Tiahrt's legislation is it is an opt in.

Mr. Means. We started with an opt-out program, and because of the flow of paper with students taking it home and maybe not returning it, because the opt out said no, everyone is included until I get a note from the parents saying no, I don't want my child to participate.

If they don't come back, obviously discussion probably didn't even occur at home. If you have the opt in, where the only way the student can participate is the school receiving written consent, then you are erring on the side of caution possibly.

Chairman Riggs. That is the current policy at your school in your district?

Mr. Means. As it pertains to sex and AIDS education programs. That was really one of the most passionate areas that has been an emphasis behind this movement.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Davis, what is the current policy and law in the State of Texas? And, Dr. Domenech, what is the current policy and practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Fairfax public schools with regard to these very sensitive materials? Is it opt out or opt in?

Mr. Domenech. In terms of our curriculum in terms of family education as we refer to it, it is an opt out. Students will be included unless the parents send a note to the school saying that they do not want their child to participate in class or reviewing of films. With access to materials, that is open to everyone. It is not opt out. Everyone is entitled to it.

Chairman Riggs. And that material would be available at the site level?

Mr. Domenech. At the building level, at the district office, and we even make it available in our local libraries.

Chairman Riggs. Mr. Davis, how about Texas?

Mr. Davis. The same way. Basically the same concept. Each district has the option to go either direction.

Chairman Riggs. Very good.

Mr. Payne. Thank you very much.

I just continually have a question about the usurping of Federal guidelines on local school districts, and the right of legal action which this legislation bestows on parents is, I think, already unprecedented in the General Education Provisions Act.

I just have some concern that this provision could be abused and could literally halt the ability of a school district to function. I just wonder how do you see the local school districts none of you feel this usurps Federal jurisdiction over local school districts? You just don't think it is another layer of Federal Government on the local districts?

I just wonder how you interpret when we, as asked the other panel, when we interpret the fact that most of the philosophy is that local is best, we should not have the Federal Government intrude. Then, once again, I get confused with the support of a bill that does have the Federal Government supercede the local school board.

I just wonder, since you are not the Congress people who testified before, maybe we can hear from the local people, how do you see this as intrusive or not intrusive, or the difference of this as opposed to other Goals 2000, other things that you say are imposed on you as local school people?

Mr. Taylor. If I can just respond, I will say that we have got Federal intrusion already, Mr. Payne, with a number of Federal education programs. So this is only provides a very small tool to each and every parent that wants to be able to have access, reasonable access. As to that Federal intrusion, frankly, no matter what kind of a program it would be, but Federal funds that are being used, you know, in the local school district. I see this as this balances it out, so I don't see that this is inconsistent with local control.

Mr. Domenech. Well, Mr. Payne, that is exactly the basis of our testimony, to agree with the statement that you just made, that in essence we do see this as Federal intrusion, unnecessary, that this is primarily the province of the local board of education and certainly the State level but it should not require Federal intervention.

Mr. Davis. Evidently the reason this legislation is being considered, there are some States out there that are not doing what they should be doing in relation to parental involvement. So Texas is already doing this, but we see that we rather see this as a guideline versus a mandate. But we would still like to see this coming about, because we need some equalization in the United States in relation to parental rights and parental involvement.

Mr. Means. I will just maybe echo a little a little of this sentiment, this policy. In some ways the policies of my district are more stringent even than this, and so it would not effect any intrusion. But I am aware that other districts are not at that point yet, and perhaps this legislation could get them to that point more quickly without some of the mistakes and stress that some of these people shared today.

Ms. Delullo. I think the issue that needs to be clarified here, and it was clarified with the drug-free schools issue of money going to textbooks when the Federal Government supplies money for curriculum. I think the issue here is not intrusion. I think the issue is constitutional. I don't think you need any FERPA law to go and receive your constitutional rights in Federal court.

I think what would be intrusive is if the Federal Government would control the content of the curriculum. They are not controlling this bill is not controlling the content. So it is just controlling access to we the people which is I feel is important and as a constitutional issue it would stand. Thank you.

Mr. Reinhard. Yes, I further echo that the ultimate decentralization is not to school boards but to parents. This is parental empowerment. Further, the family, the FERPA law that has just been discussed, if we truly believe that that is Federal intrusion, then maybe we should abandon that law as well. But if we believe in FERPA, maybe we should believe in enforcing it and closing the loopholes that have allowed some of these egregious mistakes to slip through.

Mr. Payne. Now, I agree that there are certain mistakes. I still can't fathom how a Federal Government can do a better job than the local school boards. I certainly think parents need to be more involved. I think that the example of some of these tests that have been shown are outrageous, almost shocking, and I certainly agree with the previous panel that that sort of thing, I don't understand how it could slip through a school district.

But I guess I just have and it is not the people on this panel, it is more with the political leadership of the new majority, and maybe Mr. Taylor could respond, since he is probably the only person that is really involved in public policy and you all are just regular citizens.

The right to sue, for example, we have got legislation out that wants to restrict people's right to sue. You have got legislation that would say, you know, the loser pays; if you sue, you have to pay if you lose, so be careful about suing. And the right that you represent said we should reduce suing, we should the lawyers are just making money here.

This legislation, one of the main components is, in Federal court at that, that the parents should be encouraged to sue. So once again, suing on one hand is wrong or abused. It seems that when policies fit what you want to do, it is less philosophical, I think, than public policy, even.

For example, I cannot understand why everyone shouldn't be outraged you know, these tests are bad and they may harm people psychologically, but what is happening in our country the last several months with 11-year-olds and 13-year-olds taking automatic weapons to the school and killing their schoolmates, shooting their teachers, yet? And still, and that is what I am talking to you about as a policymaker, I have not heard any outcry about banning of assault weapons from your Christian Coalition supporters.

As a matter of fact, you support the right for these children or people to bear arms. So I get kind of confused on issues of life and death, such as gun control, where it is going to eventually. What is wrong with banning weapons, trying to get them out of the hands of people? There are 200 million guns in this country.

Since you are a policymaker, that is the only reason I am asking you the question. The other people, as I mentioned before, they are citizens and not involved in making policy, but you are. I just wonder how you could respond to that. I know it is a little bit it is a problem in schools, and that is the reason that I am raising it.

Mr. Taylor. Mr. Payne, obviously, every member of the Christian Coalition is very upset with the tragedy in Arkansas, Jonesboro, Arkansas and other we have had some copycats, at least one copycat that I am aware of since that incident. I think it does point to partly the breakdown of families, and there is a whole host of reasons that could be explored with that.

We have never taken as far as I know, I am relatively new at the Christian Coalition, as far as I know we haven't really taken a position on guns control. We certainly would not be for children carrying weapons in schools. I think that is I don't think I have to check with Randy Tate to find out whether we would oppose that or not. I think I can step out there and say that with relative confidence.

But just to get back, you know, a little bit to the point of this bill, and also just to clarify a little bit of my testimony, in terms of my example, in terms of the assessment that was used in Massachusetts, I think what I was the reason I was using this particular example is because of the personal questions that were attached to that were a part of this assessment.

I fully am aware that this bill does except standardized tests from its requirement, but at least maybe and maybe this would require a clarification under the Tiahrt bill that questions of a personal nature maybe should be there should still be direct parental consent on a standardized test, so that if students are getting questions about parental behaviors at home or family lifestyles or those kinds of questions, I think that is going beyond the bounds of what an assessment a standardized assessment should be asking without parental consent.

So that was the point that I was trying to make with that particular example in Massachusetts. I don't know if I responded to your question or not, Mr. Payne.

Mr. Payne. You did. That is good. And I don't want you to think that people who oppose this bill are opposed to parental involvement either, you know. So it is on the other side.

Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Payne. Congressman Scott?

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Taylor, you have kind of brought up a subject that I am interested in. Would you have to check with Randy Tate to get a position on safety locks for firearms?

Mr. Taylor. It is just we don't take a position on every issue before this Congress, Mr. Scott. Frankly, you gentlemen get paid the big money to have to do that, and frankly we don't do that. We do feel like we have a pretty full plate, and we do weigh in on a lot of issues but we don't weigh in on every issue. That particular issue has not come up in any of the discussions that I have had with Mr. Tate.

Mr. Scott. Okay. How is the proposed Federal bill different from the Massachusetts law which did not grant Mrs. O'Connell access to the information?

Mr. Taylor. Well, as I was trying to explain to Chairman Riggs, frankly, I think before the loophole was created in the Massachusetts law it was a broader a broader FOIA.

Mr. Scott. Wait a minute. And under that broader law, she didn't get the information?

Mr. Taylor. Well, only because the Department of Education was dragging its feet, not because the Secretary of State ruled against her. They ruled in fact in favor for her.

Mr. Scott. How is the language in the bill better than the language already in the GEPA?

Mr. Taylor. I am not sure I understand your question.

Mr. Scott. The language the present law under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act's provisions already has the provision that no funds should be available to school districts that don't make information available. How is this bill significantly different than what is already in the law?

Mr. Taylor. I am not sure it is significantly different, but I think it does provide some clarifying language because it has been uniformly applied throughout the States. And especially with regards to educational materials, that is mentioned specifically in FERPA, and this would make it clear that curriculum and testing with certain exceptions would be made available, given

Mr. Scott. Is that not in the present law? We will check.

Mr. Means, you indicated that the law that you have in Kansas is actually stronger than the law that is proposed in this bill?

Mr. Means. Well, we have I wasn't referring to a law. We have a district policy.

Mr. Scott. How is the district policy enforced? And if you have an aggrieved parent, what can they do if they don't agree with a decision being made?

Mr. Means. Our district policies, I don't know if you have a copy of this but, one, it defines the policies, and then it gives a list of administrative implementation procedures so that the policy can be consistently applied in each of the 100 buildings in the district.

Mr. Scott. Does the parent have the right to go to Federal court to enforce your policy?

Mr. Means. I don't believe this policy indicates --

Mr. Scott. And does the parent have the right to attorneys' fees paid by the school board if there is a disagreement where they prevail?

Mr. Means. None of these policies directly indicate what the parents' rights are in response to dissatisfaction with the school. We would use kind of a process the other schools or other people that have responded to, you know, visiting with the principal and the superintendent, the Board of Education. But our policy is the way our policy is set up. None of them exactly indicate or specifically dictate what the parents' recourse is and the implementation of that policy.

Mr. Scott. As a principal, would you be would it be a better law or a worse law if all of the parents you disagreed with had the right to go into Federal court to argue about which tests or which piece of information ought to be released? Would it be better or worse for them to have a Federal right of action to sue you on their disagreement?

Mr. Means. Well, I would think I guess my only response to that would be that a process that allows a parent some recourse is going to be a better process than one that does not.

Mr. Scott. You would prefer that the parents have the right the Federal right of action to haul you into Federal court every time they disagreed, and if they win, you pay their attorneys' fees?

Mr. Means. No, I don't think I am saying that. I don't believe that every --

Mr. Scott. Let me ask it another way. Do you support the bill or oppose the bill?

Mr. Means. As a practicing educator in our public school system, I believe this legislation sets out some good ideas that will provide some consistency across the country for districts that don't have these policies or similar policies already in place.

Mr. Scott. Well, I think it has been pointed out that we have a hard job, we actually have to legislate. Do you support the bill or oppose the bill?

Mr. Means. I support what the bill the intent of what the bill is doing, yes.

Mr. Scott. Well, would you suggest we vote for it or defeat it?

Mr. Means. I guess I would not presume to come here and tell you what to do. I am just trying to share with you some information from a district that has had some experience with a similar policy.

Mr. Scott. Okay. Let me ask it one more time. Would it be a better practice or worse practice for the parents that come before you with disagreements to have a Federal right of action to haul you into Federal court every time they disagree? That is what the bill does.

Mr. Means. I understand. I don't know if I am really am have the background maybe to have an opinion on that. If every time a parent disagrees with me no. But I think that

Mr. Scott. That is what the bill does.

Mr. Means. Well, I think that there are you are asking me about my policy and my experience. That is what I am here speaking about.

Mr. Scott. I think we all agree, in general, that this information ought to be released. It is already in the present law. There is some maybe fine-tuning to make it a little clearer, but the bill doesn't do fine-tuning. It gives the Federal right of action for parents who disagree with the decision of the principal to go right into Federal court and sue for information that they didn't get and get attorneys' fees. And I guess you would get hauled into court as a witness in the middle of the school day.

Is that a better or a worse system than the articulated policy that tries to explain it the best so that anybody can understand it, but doesn't have a court action at the end of the process? And which is better, which is more which will create a better relationship between parents and the school administration?

Mr. Means. If part of the legislation requires that I share this information and I choose, for whatever reason, not to, and the legislation then also gives the parent a recourse to hold me accountable for why I am choosing to disregard the directive, then it is better for the parent to have that recourse, I believe.

Mr. Scott. So you would prefer the if you disagree, to argue it in Federal court rather than in the school board and have the school board decision be the final? I mean, you can have it one way or the other.

Mr. Means. My preference would be to resolve obviously, my preference would be to resolve the issue at the building level. But if there is legislation or direction, whether it is a board policy that says I will do this and I choose not to, or one of my children was in school where a staff member was told to do something and they chose not to, then I would expect to have some kind of recourse.

I can't really testify on whether the Federal court is going to be the most effective way of doing it. I don't have that background. I just fail to have that information. But I believe it is important for parents to have some recourse in a situation.

Mr. Scott. Let me ask one other question, with the indulgence of the Chairman. And that is that the bill requires parental permission prior to any medical treatment being given. There are some states, like Virginia, that have specific exceptions to those general laws. And I guess my question is, should we override those State laws with this, which may be in conflict with State laws?

I don't know, maybe the superintendent from Fairfax could say, what would you do if we passed this that said you can't get any Federal money unless you violate the State law? You have to comply with the State law. What would you do in that situation? The exceptions are things like treatment for venereal disease. That is specifically exempted. You don't need parental permission for that in Virginia. How would you deal with that conflict?

Mr. Domenech. Well, it is a conflict. Right now we basically do require at our level parental permission and we have very strict policies in this area, other than in emergency situations. But here again, I think the point that you are making is the point that we are supporting, that this legislation I think would create the opportunities for more litigation.

Frankly, one of the concerns that we have as school administrators and as superintendents is that too much of our time is spent nowadays on issues that have little to do with what happens in the classroom and much more to do with the administration of rules, regulations and laws. I think this is what we are trying to revert to, but having yet another layer on top of local policy, State policy, and now Federal regulations, that would create yet more opportunities for conflict and more opportunities for litigation.

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Riggs. Congressman Scott, thank you.

And before I adjourn the hearing, I think it is important to clarify a couple of points that really ensue from some of the comments and questions posed by my colleagues to our witnesses.

It is my understanding that current law applies to surveys administrated or funded by the United States Department of Education. Current law requires parental consent before a student participates in a federally-funded educational survey, analysis or evaluation, and then it goes on to require any instructional material which will be used in conjunction or in connection with any survey, analysis or evaluation be available for inspection by parents or guardians of the children. The fine print defines "instructional material" as teachers' manuals, films, tapes or other supplementary material.

Now, the Tiahrt legislation goes beyond that by guaranteeing parents access to the curriculum their children are exposed to. That would, in guaranteeing access to curriculum, again include textbooks, audiovisual materials, manuals, journals, films or any supplementary materials. It provides parents access to testing materials administered to the children, hence my question about testing, but it excludes standardized achievement tests or any copyrighted material. But that is, I stipulate, a bit of a gray area as you have States beginning to develop their own tests and not necessarily relying on test publishers or off-the-shelf tests.

Lastly, as we have heard today, it requires parental consent, if you will, an opt-in parental consent prior to any student being required to undergo medical, psychological or psychiatric examination, testing or treatment at school, except for emergency care.

The operative word there, for Congressman Scott, is "access." He is a very capable lawyer and a very capable Member of Congress, and he was very persistently questioning Mr. Means, suggesting if there was a disagreement, that a local school district could be sued. Congressman Tiahrt's legislation is clear, it is only in the event of a school district denying a parent access to these materials as broadened or expanded by the Tiahrt Parental Freedom of Information Act.

With that all said, I have to say one thing, just so you don't leave here under erroneous impression from me as Chairman of the Subcommittee. That is, I tend to Congressman Scott's concerns about creating this new tort, this new cause of action where a parent, if they felt they were denied access, could proceed directly to United States District Court.

We did not confer with the Federal Judicial Council prior to today's hearing; but I suspect if we did, we would probably hear from them loud and clear that they do not want more litigation of this nature clogging United States District Courts around the country. I think they probably would consider the first claim and that the priority of those courts is to adjudicate criminal matters involving violations of the United States Code, and then civil matters. This, I have a feeling, would be so far down the list that, again, the Federal judiciary would not want to see these cases brought at the Federal district court level without, of course, ample increased appropriations from Congress or more judges and more courts.

With that all said, I do recognize that all too often parents are treated as inferior, somehow second class citizens. I encountered I have encountered that in my own experience, both as a parent, consumer, public educator, as well as a former school board member and school board president for three years in my home community. I think there are too many school districts around the country that take the approach that the school district, the education establishment I don't mean that in a derogatory sense but knows best or knows better than parents.

This legislation I think would seek to sort of change that equation, and I think Mr. Reinhard put it well. It would empower parents, and lots of what we have done under the heading of educational reform in this Congress and the last Congress, ever since the Republican party became the majority party in the Congress, has been focused on empowering individuals and especially empowering parents.

Congressman Scott, I invoked your name so I don't want to adjourn the hearing without giving you a chance, but I

Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You did well.

Mr. Payne. We agree with you.

Chairman Riggs. Let me say to both of my colleagues and, that is, that perhaps the middle ground, as we go forward on this legislation, might be to look at some formal legal mechanism for arbitration or mediation, short of actual, you know, adjudication of these types of claims, which are torts, civil action, because I don't think the United States District Court would welcome this sort of litigation.

With that all said, I want to thank my colleagues. I want to thank our panelists. I want to thank our audience. I have to ask, I see a group of young men in the back and there is

Mr. Scott. They are from Richmond, Virginia. And they are members of a very prestigious organization, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which is, you may not be aware of this, but it is the greatest of all of the Greek fraternities and has many very distinguished members, including the ones that are sitting before you today.

Chairman Riggs. Well, gentlemen, welcome. Well, you are getting to see Congressman Scott and Congressman Payne and our witnesses as well.

Thank you for joining us. Thank you again to our witnesses. The Subcommittee stands adjourned.

[Whereupon, at 12:52 P.M., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]