Proof Points: A primer on parental consent in ed research

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By Jill Barshay

While writing a recent column about teachers conducting educational studies, I was surprised to learn that parental consent often isn’t required in these sorts of classroom experiments. Here is a brief primer on when seeking permission from parents is and isn’t required in educational research.
Read the column
Key Findings 
  • Research experiments on children usually require parental permission but there’s a giant exception in the federal rules for education research.
  • Studying the effectiveness of “normal” teaching methods and materials in a classroom usually doesn’t require parental permission.
  • Additional study elements can trigger the need for parental consent, such as extra tests, surveys and interviews with students, which otherwise wouldn’t be happening in a classroom. 
  • Privacy laws can also trigger parental consent.
Teacher Takeaway 
  • Teachers can legally study instructional approaches in their classroom without parental consent in many cases but consent may be necessary if teachers hope to publish their studies in a peer reviewed journal.
Lit Review 
  1. Code Of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Public Welfare, Department Of Health And Human Services, Part 46, Protection Of Human Subjects
  2. Exemptions for education research. 45 CFR 46.104
  3. 2018 Common Rule Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Office of Research, University of California, Irvine (January 25, 2019)
  4. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  5. Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)
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