Eyeing state investigation, school district defends surveys of students

Eyeing state investigation, school district defends surveys of students

Eyeing state investigation, school district defends surveys of students

A law firm representing irate parents is demanding a state investigation in Missouri, where public school students have allegedly been subjected to personal and obtrusive political-based surveys about themselves and even their parents despite laws that forbid such questions and that assure parents they aren't kept in the dark.

Southeastern Legal Foundation has sent a formal request to Missouri’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, to investigate Webster Groves School District over its allegation the school broke federal and Missouri laws regarding student beliefs and family privacy.

According to the school district, in a statement it provided to AFN, it avoided violating both federal and state laws in its effort to become aware of the “learning environment” of its students.

Webster Groves, located in the suburbs of St. Louis, oversees 5,000 students in 10 public schools. The city of Webster Grove is approximately 24,000 residents.

Cato analyst dismisses 'equity' goals as feel-good guidelines

Bob Kellogg, AFN.net

The U.S. Department of Education has announced it is requiring colleges and universities to demonstrate their commitment to “equity” in order to obtain federal dollars but an education analyst says it’s mostly a feel-good gesture of race-based wokeness.

According to Fox News, the federal agency has released a 19-page plan describing how it will implement President Joe Biden’s 2021 executive order that ordered the federal government to address “racial equity and support for underserved communities.”

For the U.S. Department of Education, according to the Fox story, that means evaluating grant proposals for a commitment to equity and implementing an “Equity Dashboard” that will inform their decision-making. That new program is bizarrely described as the “single source of truth” for the federal agency and its employees.

McCluskey, Neal (Cato Institute) McCluskey

The DOE will also change federal student loan applications to remove “intimidation” for minorities, such as no longer including questions about drug convictions, but the loan applications will now include race and gender.

Asked about the new guidelines, Neil McCluskey of the Cato Institute says the “guiding principle” at the DOE is to improve the resources available to minorities but, in reality, the federal agency isn't tasked with doing much to address that.

"There's not actually a whole lot that's concrete here, which is probably good,” he observes, “because the federal government doesn't have constitutional authority to try and fix inequities through funding or programs or regulation."

According to SLF, Webster Groves is required to comply with a federal law, the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act, and an amendment known as the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. But students at Webster Groves High are required to participate in two political-based surveys in a government class and thus the school is violating the law, the law firm insists. 

One survey is the “E-Congress Political Ideology Survey” and the second is the “I Side With” survey, Fox News, in a story about the controversy, reported. Both classroom surveys were created by outside parties. 

In a screenshot provided to Fox News, the “I Side With” survey asks students if the federal government should fund abortion provider Planned Parenthood and asks students to share their views on abortion.

According to the Fox News story, middle school students were required to fill out a survey about "LGBTQIA Struggles" and a separate survey about race that promoted the Black Lives Matter logo. That survey was a "student-created" questionnaire, the story said. 

AFN easily found the "I Side With" political survey online, which can be read here and which begins with the timely and controversial topic of Critical Race Theory. That question gives an accurate description of CRT's premise about a racist power structure dominated by whites. 

While the "I Side With" political survey doesn't blatantly push students in one political direction, the same can't be said for the teachers who have access to the answers. Over the past two years, many once-clueless parents have belatedly awakened to the fact that most school administrators and classroom teachers lean one way politically --- left --- and are subjecting their children to left-wing ideology, and usually without the parent’s knowledge despite laws passed to prevent it. So is not unreasonable to predict, for example, a classroom discussion on abortion and Planned Parenthood would out a pro-life student who would be subjected to bullying and intimidation by the majority of classmates and by the disapproving teacher who approves of the Marxist-like tactic.

The suburb of St. Louis is a Democrat stronghold, where voters overwhelmingly voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump 61%-37% in the 2020 election.

To that end, SLF general counsel Kimberly Hermann tells AFN that is why Webster Grove parents don’t trust the school district and why the law firm is demanding an investigation.

"Data is being collected on their children and them," says Hermann. "We don't know what's done with that data, but one could speculate, and this has to stop."

Webster Groves defends surveys

In a lengthy statement to AFN, Webster Groves School District did not deny it is subjecting students to personal surveys of their beliefs but defended the surveys as “essential” for helping students mature into adulthood. 

“To accomplish that, it is essential to become and remain aware of their learning environment, how safe and included students feel in that environment,” the statement reads, “and how the District can better support students so that each can reach his or her full potential.”

Farther down in the statement, the school district said it is complying “in all respects” with privacy laws, because the federal law cited by SLF only applies to programs that are “partially or wholly funded” by the U.S. Department of Education.

“None of the surveys cited by SLF,” the statement reads, “were a part of any such program.”

In a related paragraph about Missouri law, Webster Groves said the state statute applies to state-level data maintained by the Missouri Dept. of Education, “not to any student information gathered at the local level.”

In the Fox News story, Hermann said Attorney General Schmitt, a Republican, has spoken publicly about left-wing indoctrination and about parents' rights, and so she believes he will conduct a "detailed" investigation.