Group demands probe into Missouri schools collecting personal student info without parental consent

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The Southeastern Legal Foundation is requesting an investigation into a Missouri school district over an alleged violation of privacy rights after students were asked to fill out surveys that included questions about their sexual orientation and the political leanings of their parents.

A letter was sent by the group to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt by concerned parents requesting an investigation into Webster Groves School District (WGSD) over the surveys. They want the state to scrutinize the State Board of Education, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Webster Groves School District, and related third parties on whether the information in the surveys violated state and federal law.

Parents claim the surveys were mandatory and they were never asked for consent. The letter cites experts who assert that the surveys were similar to those seen in a physician’s office or in a mental health facility. Included in the surveys were personal questions dealing with political beliefs, gender identity, mental health, and racial identity.

High school students were allegedly given two surveys in a government class asking what their political affiliation was according to the letter.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education specifically prohibits school districts from collecting and reporting information on political beliefs

According to Fox News, the surveys utilize social-emotional learning (SEL):

The surveys are often created and conducted by third parties. Panorama Education, Inc. and Project Wayfinder helped administer surveys to the Webster Groves School District. A spokesperson for the school district said they have a service order with Panorama for a cost of $19,000 next year. According to the websites from the two groups, they both employ social-emotional learning (SEL) to improve the schools’ curriculum and the students’ education.

The WGSD uses Wayfinders Waypoints weekly surveys, which are conducted in an advisory class at the high school. Students are given a prompt which they then rank on a scale 1-5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The prompts focus on several topics like mental health, self-awareness, community, relationships, agency and energy. The SLF obtained the prompts students were given.

“I feel safe to talk about race, culture and identity at school,” one prompt stated.

“I feel supported by my family,” another prompt reads.

“I feel safe to talk about race, culture and identity at school,” another asked.

 

Middle-schoolers were also reportedly required to fill out surveys that covered topics such as “LGBTQIA+ Struggles!” and racial identity that promoted the Black Lives Matter logo.

“Unfortunately, we live in a world where parents who speak out are being doxxed and threatened on a daily basis. We saw this last week with the Libs of TikTok doxxing. We have witnessed the U.S. Department of Justice open a special office to investigate parents who attend local school board meetings, which is further meant to intimidate,” Kimberly Hermann, general counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, told Fox News Digital. “For our clients’ safety and that of their families, they have chosen to remain anonymous at this time.”

“Webster Groves School District violated federal and state privacy laws when it required students to provide personal information without parental consent on their political beliefs and those of their family members, on their mental health, on their sexuality and identity, and on their personal family relationships. Each of these are protected under law,” Hermann stated.

The school district claims the surveys are voluntary and that parents were given notice, according to Fox News.

“Based on the Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s actions over the last six months fighting for parental rights, these are excellent indications that his office will launch a full and detailed investigation into WGSD, the State Board, DESE, and third-party vendors like Panorama and Project Wayfinder,” Hermann remarked.

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