Education

A School District Asked To Survey Students About Private Matters. The Uproar Was Inevitable.

Government domination of education has bred distrust and conflict.

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Officials in one Arizona school district are learning just how seriously families take privacy after parents were asked to consent to letting their children be questioned about a checklist of sensitive subjects including illegal behavior, income, and gun ownership. The district quickly backtracked, claiming the consent form hadn't been properly vetted and that such private information would never be sought. The survey is voluntary, officials emphasized. But the damage is done and the consent form has erupted into yet another political battle over government-dominated education.

The issue blew up on social media earlier this week when the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) uploaded to the parent portal a form asking for consent to social-emotional screening of students.

"The electronic signature attached to this Annual Verification packet authorizes SUSD to complete an emotional health and wellness screening of my child and to collect personal information including but not limited to income or other family information, medical history or medical information, mental health history or mental health information, and quality of home and interpersonal relationships, student biometric information, or illegal, antisocial or self-incriminating behavior critical appraisal of individuals within a close relationship and gun/ammunition ownership," the form read.

The reaction was fast and furious.

"Scottsdale USD wants to evaluate my family's income, medical and mental health history, my child's 'biometric' info, as well as our gun and ammo ownership. No thanks!" Twitter user Amanda Wray tweeted in response.

"It went viral as soon as many parents started reacting to it," Shiry Sapir, who just enrolled her three-year-old in a SUSD preschool, told me. "Just know the verbiage comes straight out of statute 15-117. Almost word by word. They tried to overpass the statute with that consent which is so wrong."

Sapir, who earlier this year filed a statement of interest as a first step in seeking the Republican nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction, pointed to a state law passed in 2016 (the aforementioned statute 15-117) that requires public schools to get parental consent before asking about a laundry list of topics, many of which were included in the SUSD consent form with the same phrasing. The implication was that the school district planned to seek information deemed so sensitive that it was specifically protected by law.

"So the bottom line is that we made a mistake, initially uploading a parent/guardian consent form document that had not been properly vetted by the district before it was posted – that's what raised the completely valid concerns of some of our families earlier this week," SUSD representative Nancy Norman told me via email. "Fastbridge SEL screening is a completely optional undertaking," she added about the social-emotional learning program developed by Minneapolis-based FastBridge Learning. "It is parents' choice whether to have their children take part in it."

The district sent the same message to parents in a statement responding to the uproar. The consent form, the statement emphasized, was for an optional screener that had been adopted district-wide in May after being used earlier for grades K through 3.

"Notwithstanding this, SUSD's initial parent acknowledgment form incorrectly stated that the FastBridge screener might ask for personal information about income, family matters, medical or family medical history, mental health history and other categories of private information. To be clear, the FastBridge screener does not and has never sought this information."

The statement pointed parents to a web page for FastBridge's Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener program. As of the 2018-2019 school year, the company's assessments were used in 45 states. Online screening examples focus on behavioral issues and not on the sensitive information detailed in the SUSD consent form.

Overall, then, the SUSD appears to have been its own worst enemy, carelessly asking parents to consent to the questioning of their children about sensitive topics that aren't actually addressed by the assessment program it adopted. Bureaucratic clumsiness predictably produced outrage from families primed to expect the worst by years of politicized schooling and battles over the ideological content of classroom lessons.

After months of controversy over the introduction of racially charged curricula in classrooms, following on decades of conflicts over the political spin school officials put on lessons, it's difficult to think of a more effective way of angering parents than to tell them you want to question their kids about income, illegal activity, and gun ownership. Many people already assume that schools are agents of enemy political factions; such intrusive interrogation is guaranteed to set them off. The furious reaction was inevitable in a society of diverse values and points of view that funnels most kids into a state monopoly on education (you're allowed to opt out—but only so long as you continue paying for the state schools). Actually, the reaction was not just inevitable but anticipated long ago.

In On Liberty, published in 1859, John Stuart Mill advocated requiring children to be educated, but not letting government operate schools. He said it was best to "leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased" with government doing no more than paying tuition for those in need to avoid "difficulties about what the State should teach, and how it should teach, which now convert the subject into a mere battle-field for sects and parties." 

A century-and-a-half later, having maintained government as the default operator of schools, we've also maintained their continuing status as battlefields. As a result, parents assume the worst when educators make controversial decisions about curricula or threaten to interrogate children about their home lives.

"I will be introducing legislation to stop schools from asking any of these very personal & invasive questions," vowed Arizona Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) in an indication that the controversy won't disappear soon.

Ultimately, the only way to settle these eternal struggles over schooling is to "leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased" for their children. They'll be free to pick education models of which they approve and so won't feel the need to turn every lesson plan and screening tool into yet another battle over access to young minds. That has to be better than continuing distrust and conflict.

NEXT: The Lamp

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  1. ‘Government domination of education has bred distrust and conflict’ is your take-away from this?

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    2. It’s always a bad idea to shove Gov-Gun-Forces in places they just don’t belong!

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  2. “Government domination of education has bred distrust and conflict.”

    According to Reason.com commenter chemjeff, the solution is to base American public education around critical race theory. And if you think this is a bad idea, he’ll copy / paste the definition of CRT from the ABA website to prove how harmless it is.

    #LibertariansForCRTInPublicSchools

    1. It’s not a real chemjeff solution unless you can shoot people for tresspassing.

      1. Also true.

  3. ” . . . Many people already assume that schools are agents of enemy political factions . . . ”

    Allow me to make minor correction in the interest of removing possible misinformation.
    “Many people already know that schools are agents of fascist political factions”.
    You see, many people do not consider the fascists to be the enemy.

    1. Another take:

      Many people already assume that schools are agents of enemy political factions; such intrusive interrogation is guaranteed to set them off corroborate this view.

      1. My fascism is good for everybody.

        1. My fascism won’t work without your fascism.

    2. I’m just surprised they asked permission.

  4. As the Democrats and their supporters in the teachers’ unions have increasingly embraced policing and trying to control what we all think–from CRT to anti-racism sessions and from cancel culture to “misinformation”–the American people have become increasingly aware that the Democrats and their supporters in the teachers’ unions are, in fact, our enemies–and the reason they want to subject our thoughts to their scrutiny is because they want to subject us to their control.

    A lot of this is a function of elitism. The contempt that the Democrats and their bureaucrats show for the thoughts, preferences, and opinions of average people hasn’t gone unnoticed. Progressives are all about using the coercive power of government to force us to do things against our will, and there isn’t anything democratic about that. It isn’t democracy, and the Democrats certainly don’t believe in representing the will of parents or the American people. They see themselves as a righteous force to stop the will of the people.

    The Democrats hate average Americans for supposedly being homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, and racist, and they think the solution is to teach us to hate ourselves and each other as much as they hate us, too. Their contempt for us isn’t any big secret. You don’t need to go to an anti-racism seminar. Just ask your neighborhood progressive why so many people in the white, blue collar, middle class think that progressives hate them, and the answer will probably be about why the white, blue collar, middle class should be hated.

    Democrats and teachers’ unions fighting to keep the schools closed during the pandemic surely didn’t help their credibility with the average American any, but ultimately, the reason average Americans have become deeply suspicious of the Democrats, their bureaucrats, and the teachers’ unions is because average Americans have eyes and ears and they aren’t stupid. November of 2022 can’t come soon enough for most of them, and if the Democrats don’t abandon their elitism, contempt for average Americans, and their obsessions with thought control, 2024 will make Trump’s election in 2016 seem like their dream come true.

    1. And they’re blind to their own elitism. Yesterday I heard two colleagues talking about the anti-vax use of “my body, my choice” and how hypocritical it is for right-wingers. I’ve also read a couple of editorials making the same hypocrisy claim. It’s gone right over their heads that they use that specific phrase to point out the hypocrisy of the pro-forced-vaccine crown on the LEFT.

      I’m fully vaccinated and I encourage vaccines, but I’m not in favor of vaccine coercion. I thought it was brilliant when the anti-vax crowd pulled the “my choice” line on the pro-forced-vax crowd. Then I realized the pro-forced-vax crowd was too self-blind to get the joke.

      1. Two different radio hosts on the Detroit FUCKING SPORTS station, on the very same day, criticized “anti-vaxers” using that phrase for being hypocrites about abortion.

        The whole station is full of hosts that don’t even realize they’re all lefties, but make it obvious whenever they get off the topic of sports.

        1. It is all part of the corporate media agenda. Even on a sports broadcast the scripted bits need to be interjected. During the Euro 2020 broadcasts on ESPN the announcers had to cram social justice commentary into their in-game commentary.

          Anti-vax narrative is interesting as it’s being linked to conservatism and white supremacy when black and brown communities are the most vaccine skeptical communities according to some reports. Look at Los Angeles. All of those GOP beach bums refusing to get vaccinated!

          Which sports talk hosts are pushing the propaganda in Detroit? I am out of market and only listen online. Want to make sure I don’t support the shows/stations partaking.

    2. Our Weimar period is coming to an end. Prepare yourselves for the triumphant rebirth of the European spirit.

  5. “Using the scale from 1 to 10, please rate the whiteness of your family. With a 1 being Wesley Snipes and a 10 being translucent or Irish.”

    1. 11Norwegian-Danish-German-ScotsIrish.

      1. That was pretty much where I was going, except to switch norwegian/danish to swedish.

        And I still don’t give an F about the color of someone’s skin or the shape of their eyes. Treat me well and I treat you well, be bitchy with me and I won’t even acknowledge that you’re in the room. White, black, gay, str8, setter or pointer, doesn’t matter, it’s about how we relate.

    2. On a scale from Michelle Obama to Betty White.

      1. Come on. Michelle is at best a 3.

      2. On a scale from Michael Jackson to Michael Jackson.

      3. Ethnic black, or grievance black? Since I am informed that race is a social construct, I think the latter may be the more important of the two.

    3. Tell them you’re 1.5 radians.

    4. Our granddaughter is Irish white with bright red hair. She is also one quarter Filipina thanks to her grandmother, my wife. So she considers herself also a Filipina in good standing. We bought her a t-shirt with the Irish and Filipino flags on it. Confuses everyone.

  6. This was not properly vetted is the excuse. OK, but someone in the chain of command thought the district should be asking these sorts of questions, and it seems to be a long list of questionable subjects for it to be a simple error.

    1. “not properly vetted” = “Oops, we let the mask slip”

      1. “Not properly vetted” = someone down the chain got blamed for this.

      2. Pretty much my first take too.

    2. Not only was it not vetted (according to them), it wasn’t even necessary. If either, let alone both, of these things are true then one or more people should be losing their jobs for incompetence or abuse of position. Personally, I expect no firings because the only thing done wrong here in the admin’s eyes is they got called out.

      1. Losing their job? At a school? Like that’s going to happen.

        Once you get in with the union you’re not losing your job unless you’re conservative or get caught giving handies to the kids in the locker room during gym class.

    3. So, the administrator who wrote /approved / posted this without ‘proper vetting’ is being fired, right?

      Right?

    4. It was absolutely vetted. They just didn’t get away with it.

  7. Many people already assume that schools are agents of enemy political factions

    A pretty fucking safe assumption to make for gun owners

    1. Notice they left the gun part out of their apology.

  8. J.D, they only ASKED to do this, right?

    No harm, no foul, right?

    Your consistency is nothing if not inconsistent.

  9. illegal, antisocial or self-incriminating behavior critical appraisal of individuals within a close relationship and gun/ammunition ownership

    Pseudo-legalistic BS written by an officious committee.

    1. It’s not even English. There are at least one or more commas missing and probably one or two extra adjectives.

      Self-incriminating critical appraisal of individuals in a close relationship and ammunition ownership? Are you going to write their autobiography for them too?

      The meme that comes to mind is “At no point in your rambling, incoherent response, were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.”

  10. This is pretty fucked up. No way the school should be asking those questions.

    1. No way the school should be asking those questions. More properly, no way anyone you don’t know and aren’t buddies with should be asking these questions.

  11. “”So the bottom line is that we made a mistake, initially uploading a parent/guardian consent form document that had not been properly vetted by the district before it was posted – that’s what raised the completely valid concerns of some of our families earlier this week,” SUSD representative Nancy Norman told me via email”

    No. You tried to run something through and got caught and are now trying to do damage control.”

    Parents, when your kids go back to school tell them NOT to sign anything that they can’t bring home for you to review. Students are being told to sign “Codes of Conduct”. The School Districts consider these “codes” in effect 24-7-365. In our District, they used to hand out handbooks and the last page was signed originally to show that the student received the Handbook. That was later changed to the Student receiving the handbook and agreeing to the “Code”. Students have been suspended for doing things that the District has rules against, but, are perfectly legal outside of school. Some Judges have ruled against the suspensions, but, have upheld other forms of punishment.

  12. I’m confused, is this behavior by the school district deluded, or is it smug?

    What about the parents?

    1. The school is run by leftists, who truly believe that parents are not competent to decide what their kids should be taught.

  13. The real reason for the uproar? No chocolate rations.

    1. You think the school expected a demonstration of approval thanking them for increasing the weekly chocolate rations?

  14. A survey like this should get a response of “Fuck you, you nosy 5th-amendment violating bastards.”

    -jcr

    1. Responses about how even though he doesn’t own any guns, ‘Uncle Gacey’ makes you uncomfortable when he puts on his clown costume for work would also be acceptable.

  15. “Bureaucratic clumsiness predictably produced outrage from families primed to expect the worst by years of politicized schooling and battles over the ideological content of classroom lessons.”

    You really believe this was clumsiness? Absolutely intentional. They knew what they were doing. Don’t be complicit and encourage this type of behavior.

    1. “Not properly vetted”

      In other words, some lower level functionary got scapegoated.

  16. Solution: Eliminate the government public school system. Immediately switch to a voucher system where parents can choose the private school of their choice, or choose to homeschool.

    This is just a stop gap measure. Eventually the vouchers need to be phased out over time. The plight of poor can be addressed by providing direct payments to them, not the schools.

    1. You would think a voucher system would solve those issues but it doesn’t since the state mandates what all schools must do and teach wether it be public or private.

    2. Sounds good except for the voucher part. Government money has government strings attached.

    3. The plight of the poor can be addressed by charity. Oh wait, forgot this wasn’t a libertarian site anymore.

  17. In On Liberty, published in 1859, John Stuart Mill advocated requiring children to be educated, but not letting government operate schools. He said it was best to “leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased”

    Well, that will never work.*

    *And by work, properly condition young people to be conformist comrades, and both afraid of and eager supporters of the state.

  18. As always, the answer is the same — take your kids out of the school and don’t look back.

    1. Did you forget about those Gov-Guns prying through your windows insisting all children attend or at least learn Gov-Gods school requirements?

  19. To be clear, the FastBridge screener does not and has never sought this information.

    But if you don’t respond, you’re going on a list.

  20. It seems strange that gun ownership should be a source of something shameful and shrouded in secrecy. Especially at a time when many gun owners are promoting ‘open carry.’

    1. Yes, the old “you have nothing to fear if you nothing to hide” canard of the soft despot.

    2. something shameful and shrouded in secrecy
      I’m not ashamed I own firearms and have ammo for them, and since I teach people to shoot it obviously isn’t a secret.

      It’s also no secret that I have books on my bookshelves, but it certainly isn’t the school’s business how many or what kind.

      And it’s doubly inappropriate to try and get either list from my children, instead of asking me.

  21. They can’t truly oppress you if you have a gun
    . When they start allowing senior boys in the junior girls locker rooms, some dads will go down there with guns to straighten things out.

    1. Wishful thinking.

  22. This is an abomination, but one that’s all too common.

    That’s not what “verbiage” means. Pick up a dictionary for Christ’s sake.

    1. Spare us your fake outrage. You’re all on board with government spying on families to determine whether they have guns or have what you consider “white supremacist” opinions.

  23. Ran into a neighbor the other day I hadn’t seen in a while who has kids about the same age as mine. She’s an artist who used to live in LA and DC who you would easily assume to be a lefty hippy type. I asked her how things were going and she started to go off on the public schools, here, CRT, and the democrats losing their shit, so she has taken her kids out of the public schools and no longer considers herself “liberal”. It made my day

    1. I’m hoping we get a whole lot of that kind of action in the very near future.
      I had a friend who used to say people won’t wake up until the government punches them in the nose. It sounds like that lady got that punch.

  24. I agree that it was a terrible idea, but does every little social media kerfuffle have to result in new legislation? Pretty sure our existing laws could handle this.

  25. If you believe them when they said it was an accident and they had no intention of asking those questions, you haven’t been paying attention. The consent form did not magically write itself and the author didn’t accidentally ask about guns in the home. “Did we say guns? Just a typo. We meant ‘dogs,’ how many dogs do you have in you home. And ‘ammo.’ That was an auto correct for ‘apples.’ Damn Microsoft Word.”

  26. This is such a blatant attempt to undo a law specifically designed to protect privacy and the sanctity of families. Who is behind it?
    How about some ACCOUNTABILITY?
    The whole thing just reeks of the collectivist love of the state as a replacement for parents.

    1. Sell your kids to the [WE] foundation; because they’re not your kids they’re [OUR] kids…

      As long as enough [WE] gangsters willy-nilly claim a big enough entity as their-own it must be true right?

  27. Welcome to Commie-Education. Established in 1979 as the Department of Education Act. Introduced into the Senate by Democrat Ribicoff, signed by Democratic President Carter on a bipartisan split vote winning due to a Democratic Senate Majority and a Democratic House Majority.

    And the U.S. Constitution “The People’s Law” over them gave them the authority to enforce this law WHERE?????????

    If there is one thing OBVIOUS about the Federal Government policy history; it’s that Democrats don’t give a single sh*t about any “People’s” law over them. They are of limitless POWER (void of any ‘law’ or ‘limits’ over them) and always the Nazi (def; National Socialism) pushers.

  28. In On Liberty, published in 1859, John Stuart Mill advocated requiring children to be educated, but not letting government operate schools. He said it was best to “leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased” with government doing no more than paying tuition for those in need to avoid “difficulties about what the State should teach, and how it should teach, which now convert the subject into a mere battle-field for sects and parties.”

    Mill was not tops on logic here. How could the State compel education without first defining what education is? And how could the State assure that what it defined as education is taught without compelling attendance in facilities where such educational content is assured and all competing or opposing ideas of education are kept out?

    And, of course, “compulsory education” is the ultimate version of the logical fallacy of Argumentum Ad Bacculum (Appeal To Force.)

    Threatening fines and prison and ultimately death for parents and guardians and kidnapping, corporal punishment, mandatory drugging, and–in the case of Indigenous Residential Schools–death for students, does not establish the truth of a proposition.

    1. Oh, and how can the State subsidize curriculum content of education without ultimately having control of the curriculum content?

      Mill’s On Liberty, my ass! Give me Auberon Herbert’s Essays of the Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State!.

  29. This is outrageous. Schools have no right to personal data that is clearly the property of Google.

      1. Tony does actually think when it comes to ditching on the Republicans. He’s 99% an in-group partisan fan-boy and therefore makes wildly stupid comments solely because of it – all the while; I think he really knows how idiotic it is.

        It’s a very typical trait of the left to get one’s pride from being a member of a [WE] gang. After all; It’s the parties very platform of “democracy”. [WE] gang RULES!

        It has 100% to do with pride in ‘gang’ affiliation (the in-crowd) and 0% to do with anything else. It’s very primitive.

        1. I think that Tony actually thinks he’s funny. Yet more proof that the left has no sense of humor.

    1. Neither Google nor schools have a right to this personal data. In fact, both should be prohibited by law from obtaining it.

      It’s leftists like you who tolerate and promote these intrusions into our personal lives.

  30. As Malcolm X said: “By any means necessary.” One has the moral right to defend one’s own by any means necessary. Tyrrany can have only one response.

    1. Big talk, Tarzan. In reality, people who chest-thump about grabbing Daddy’s shotgun and manning the barricades would mostly shit themselves and run if faced with real soldiers.

  31. This is what they wanted permission for:

    The FastBridge assessment system was designed to take the typical 10- to 30-year gap between university research and classroom results and reduce it to months – even weeks. Our vision from the start: Innovate today and implement tomorrow, translating research into results for educators.

    Translation: they take unproven, unvalidated university research results and use them to make assessments of the mental state of students, potentially with serious consequences.

    And it’s no accident they were looking for such far-reaching permission because given that they may take research that’s only weeks old, who knows what they cook up as questionnaires during the school year.

    That’s far more serious than even the consent form itself.

    1. The bottom line, though, is that they are still going to do this, right? They are just going to modify the consent form. Instead of saying guns, it will be “home protection” and instead of illegal activities, it could be “alternate recreational activities”. The income question is child’s play. A few key questions about man toys in the garage or driveway will nail that down precisely. So a few parents get their panties in a bunch over this and the school district makes apologizing sounds. Don’t fool yourself; they’re still going to do this.

  32. A few key questions about man toys in the garage or driveway will nail that down precisely.

    Maybe not. I’ve known guys with $50,000 bass boats parked in front of their trailer.

  33. ” The most erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and to awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner.
    Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its the aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of the politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”
    H.L. Mencken.

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