The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholas H. Politan, United States District Judge
THE ORIGINAL OF THIS LETTER OPINION
IS ON FILE WITH THE CLERK OF THE COURT
This matter comes before the Court on the plaintiffs'
motion for a preliminary injunction and the
defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court
heard oral argument on September 18, 2000. For the
reasons explained below, the plaintiffs' motion for a
preliminary injunction is DENIED, and the defendants'
motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. This case is
It is said that no good deed goes unpunished, or, at least in this
case, unlitigated. The plaintiffs in this action, all residents of the
Village of Ridgewood, are the parents of three minor girls who attend
Ridgewood public schools. C.N. is the mother of plaintiff J.N., age 15;
L.M. is the mother of plaintiff V.M., age 12; and M.E. is the mother of
plaintiff J.E., age 17.*fn1 At the time the events surrounding this
action occurred, J.N. and J.E. were students at Ridgewood High School and
V.M. was a student at the Benjamin Franklin Middle School. Defendants are
the Ridgewood Board of Education and several school administrators,
including Frederick J. Stokley, Superintendent of schools; Joyce Snider,
Assistant Superintendent; Ronald Verdicchio, member of the central
administration; Robert Weakley, Director of Human Resources; John
Mucciolo, Ridgewood High School Principal; Anthony Bencivenga, Benjamin
Franklin Middle School Principal; and Sheila Brogan, President of the
Board of Education.
In September 1998, an organization called the Human Resources
Coordinating Council ("HRCC") in Ridgewood, which is comprised of public
and private social service agencies, assembled a group of community
members whose purpose was to assess the needs and interests of
Ridgewood's youth. The group concluded that it was necessary for
Ridgewood to survey the student population to gain insight into the
needs, attitudes, and behavior patterns of the town's youth.*fn2 The
group met with public organizations and private citizens throughout 1999
and elicited comment regarding the survey. The HRCC created a "Vision
Team" to supervise the project, which included thirty persons from every
sector of the community, including school officials and one student.
Prior to the culmination of the 1998-99 school year, the Superintendent,
Frederick J. Stokley, notified all parents in May 1999 that the survey
would be administered in the fall of 1999, and stated the reasons behind
the survey. On September 1, 1999, Superintendent Stokley again notified
all parents of the survey and advised that the survey was voluntary and
The survey itself is fairly extensive but apparently was to be filled
out anonymously. There is no space for a student's name or a code, and
students were instructed not to place their names or make any
distinguishing marks on the paper.*fn3 The survey, produced by the
Search Institute of Minneapolis, Minnesota, consisted of 156 questions.
Students answered each question by using a pencil to fill the circle
which corresponded to the appropriate answer, such as "Strongly Agree,"
"Agree," "Not Sure," "Disagree," or "Strongly Disagree." Some of these
questions included the following:
40. I get along well with my parents.
43. If I break one of my parent's rules, I usually get punished.
45. It is against my values to have sex while I am a teenager.
Other questions asked the students whether they had, in the past twelve
months, engaged in certain activities. A student responded to these
questions by similarly filling a circle corresponding to the appropriate
answer, such as "Never," "Once," "Twice," "3-4 Times," or "5 or More
Times." These questions included some of the following:
56. Stolen something from a store.
57. Gotten into trouble with the police.
58. Hit or beat up someone.
59. Damaged property just for fun (such as breaking windows, scratching a
car, putting paint on walls, etc.).
Still other questions asked students how many times over the last two
weeks they had imbibed alcohol, specific types of drugs, or had driven a
vehicle after drinking alcohol. Further areas covered by the survey
included violent and criminal behavior and sexual activity and
The survey was administered to students at the Benjamin Franklin Middle
School on October 13, 1999, and to students at the Ridgewood High School
on November 2, 1999. On March 6, 2000, plaintiffs brought this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a deprivation of rights secured
by the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United
States Constitution, the Family Educational Records Privacy Act,
20 U.S.C. § 1232g ("FERPA"), and the Protection of Pupils Rights
Amendment, 20 U.S.C. § 1232h ("PPRA"). The plaintiffs argue that the
survey was highly invasive of the students' privacy and that the Board
did not properly and adequately notify the parents and the students that
the survey was voluntary and anonymous. Specifically, plaintiffs complain
that the Board did not obtain written consent from the parent and/or
parents of each student.
Additionally, plaintiffs allege that prior to the administration of the
survey the defendants failed to notify parents as to how and when the
survey would be administered, how students could elect not to
participate, how nonparticipating students would be accommodated, whether
parental consent would be required before their child could take the
survey, whether parents had a right to object to their child taking the
survey, how parents could object to their child ...