Ironically, in the “Come and Take It” state of Texas, administrators from the Pflugerville Independent School District (ISD) distributed a questionnaire to Hendrickson High School students that has nothing to do with their education. Instead, high school students were instructed to disclose non-education related, private information about their parents political beliefs and family members’ gun ownership.
The students were asked to disclose information about which family members owned guns and for what purpose. They were also asked to identify their parents’ political views– and quantify their parents’ ideological perspectives from a scale of 1 – 10 (1=strong liberal; 10=strong conservative).
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Michael Cargill, an Army veteran, owner of Central Texas Gun Works, a gun store and training facility, and radio host of “Come and Talk It,” (Austin TALK 1370 AM) sounded the alarm by publicizing the questionnaire.
By distributing this questionnaire the Pflugerville ISD violated at least five Constitutional amendments related to privacy (3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, 14th)– in addition to the Ninth Amendment’s protection of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
The Bill of Rights ensures the protection of specific aspects of privacy:
- First Amendment, privacy of beliefs
- Third Amendment, privacy of the home and from housing soldiers
- Fourth Amendment, privacy of the person and possession from unreasonable search and seizures,
- Fifth Amendment privacy from self-incrimination, which includes protection of privacy of personal information.
- Ninth Amendment states: the “enumeration of certain rights” in the Bill of Rights “shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.”
- Fourteenth Amendment, protection of parental rights.
A well known and oft-quoted remark about privacy is Supreme Court Justice Brandeis’s dissent in Olmstead v. U.S. (1928). He argued:
“The makers of our Constitution understood the need to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness, and the protections guaranteed by this are much broader in scope, and include the right to life and an inviolate personality — the right to be left alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. The principle underlying the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is protection against invasions of the sanctities of a man’s home and privacies of life. This is a recognition of the significance of man’s spiritual nature, his feelings, and his intellect.”
In fact, the right to privacy is often referred to as “personal autonomy,” which has legally included narrowly defined ‘liberties’ protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. These protections primarily pertain to the privacy of family, marriage, motherhood, procreation, and child rearing.
Additionally, the questionnaire exemplifies the level of state and local interference that the Supreme Court has clearly and emphatically rejected [“with the power of parents to control the education of their own” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402)].
The Supreme Court ruled that:
a parent’s right to raise his/her children means that a parent is protected from unreasonable state interferences, one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 399).”
The problem– and irony– is that the very school district tasked with educating children, deliberately chose to violate their most fundamental constitutional rights. The educational experience for these minors is to learn what freedoms the Bill of Rights protects and that the Founding Fathers intentionally chose to restrict government interference in the lives of its citizens.
In fact, the first five words of the Bill of Rights state what Congress cannot do: “Congress shall make no law… .”
Even more telling– the first ten amendments, with perhaps The Sixth as the exception, all define what the government cannot do.
Even more telling is that if the Pflugerville ISD provided online education, its administrators would have also violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6506). This law enables parents to control what information is collected about their child (13 years old and younger) online.
Any website operator targeting children or knowingly collecting personal information from children is legally required to post privacy policies, obtain parental consent before collecting information from their child, give parents the ability to determine how such information is used, and provide the option for parents to opt-out of future data collection from their child. Yet, not even this was done by the Pflugerville ISD.
Yet, the Pflugerville ISD intentionally chose to ignore these minors’ protected privacy rights. Further still, Pflugerville ISD administrators intentionally ignored basic parental rights in order to collect data on their political and ideological beliefs and gun ownership.
Unanswered questions remain pertaining to why the Pflugerville ISD violated the Constitution and for what purpose such illegal actions were taken.