The Abbotsford School District board of education voted unanimously to shift from passive consent to active consent for a controversial health survey. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News

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Abbotsford schools shift consent policy for McCreary health study

School board votes unanimously in favour of stricter parental consent policy for survey participation

Active parental consent will be required for all Abbotsford students to participate in an adolescent health survey, after the school board decided against the apparent recommendations of Fraser Health.

The Abbotsford School District recently sent a letter to Fraser Health stating they would be shifting from passive consent to active consent for middle school students to participate in the McCreary Centre’s adolescent health survey. High school students were to remain under the passive-consent policy.

But the school board decided last week to enforce active consent for the next survey, which will be conducted in 2023, for all students both at middle schools and high schools.

RELATED: New policy may curb Abbotsford’s participation in youth health survey

In the letter, the district acknowledges the reservations of Fraser Health in shifting to an active-consent policy.

The main difference between active and passive consent is what happens when a parental consent form is not returned: With passive consent, the student may participate. With active consent, the student may not participate.

At the November school board meeting, trustees discussed whether Abbotsford high school students should require active consent from their parents to participate. The school board asked staff to inquire about historical differences in participation rates between school districts with active and passive consent with the study.

RELATED: Survey questions about suicide and sex inappropriate for 12-year-olds, says parent

In the 2013 survey, the McCreary Centre said active and passive consent saw, respectively, 53 and 82 per cent participation rates.

“McCreary staff have noted that a 30 per cent reduction in return rates does skew the sample, and they typically look at the results of previous surveys to validate if these differences are significant,” school district superintendent Kevin Godden said in a report to the school board last week.

The Surrey School District adopted a similar posture for the 2018 McCreary study, but results from those surveys have not yet been processed.

Nevertheless, school board chair Stan Petersen said the decision to also shift high school students to active consent for the survey was unanimous among trustees.

“(We) listened to the concerns that the public had regarding it, so we supported those concerns,” Petersen said, adding that the decline in participation is “part of making that decision.

Find more of our coverage on the Abbotsford School District here.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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