My 5th grader took the PARCC practice today. Then she said they logged out of the PARCC writing and opened up a survey that asked if they have ever done drugs. One question we all were puzzled with - and I keep thinking- maybe she remembered wrong... "Have you ever been bullied for being nonsexual?" She did not even know what that meant. It was awful.
Our mouths were wide open as she poured out these grave details at dinner. The kids were all laughing and giggling and the teachers had to keep redirecting them to the survey. One girl was so struck by this question she fell out of her seat and rolled on the floor with giggles. They did not know what it meant. They thought it was funny. Then the questions - did you smoke pot? Do any drugs? Drink? They were all giggling and wondering what would happen if they all answered yes.
My husband and I were horrified.
There were questions my child did not want to answer and tried to skip. But, the computer made them answer something before moving on. This is troubling to me as well.
So WHY were children asked these questions???
Well, the Tennessee Department of Education was awarded a discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Education to "support district and school measurement of, and targeted programmatic interventions to improve, conditions for learning." (Note: Momma Bears have come to realize that a "Government Grant" ALWAYS has strings attached. It means they will do things that we wouldn't allow them to do without the grant money as bribery, like Racing to the Top, common core, and paying outrageous salaries to "consultants"). Tennessee is one of 11 states that were awarded this grant, but Tennessee is the only state that has developed its own survey to determine conditions for learning and that intend to "connect academic data to the conditions for learning data."
Anyway, this grant awarded by the US Department of Education (that's important to note, file that in the back of your head) paid for a slick website, some people to create invasive surveys to anonymously collect personal information about our children, and staff to run the program. Government wastefulness and invasion of privacy at its finest, ladies and gentlemen! (Click HERE to see the website for yourself)
What were those questions that had students giggling in embarrassment and parents blushing in horror?
Momma Bears found the surveys. There are 2 different surveys (Middle School & High School), each containing 88 personal questions. We couldn't really tell a difference between the 2 surveys, other than the title page.
Asked of 5th graders:
"During this school year, how often has anyone called you an insulting or bad name at school having to do with...
...your sexuality?" (These are 10 year old children!!!)
...your religion?" (None of the government's business!)
...your weight or physical appearance?" (Are you trying to give the kids an inferiority complex?)
...how much money your family makes?" (Again, none of your beeswax, government!)
"In the last 30 days, I...
...used or tried tobacco products"
...drank five or more servings of alcohol in a row"
...used or tried maijuana"
...used or tried other drugs or substances to get high"
"I think that...
...students are sometimes distracted in class because they are drunk or high." (some children don't know what "high" means!)
...it makes me uncomfortable when other students bring drugs or alcohol to school or school-sponsored events." (really? well, let's just plant some ideas in their young minds!)
And, in case students don't know what these terms mean, they go ahead and educate them by including all sorts of examples at the top of the survey. If your child didn't know they could sniff products to get high, they sure know now... Thank you, government!
NOTE: Not every school district in TN is giving these climate surveys (Click HERE to see if your county does) This climate survey is NOT a part of the common core PARCC testing. It just happened that this school gave both the climate survey as the same day as the common core writing assessment.
Click HERE to download the Middle School Climate Survey
Click HERE to download the High School Climate Survey
(Note: The Mom above is unsure if she or her husband gave permission at the beginning of the year with all the registration forms they signed. If they did, they certainly did not understand the types of questions that would be asked of their child.)
The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) clearly states that parents must give WRITTEN consent BEFORE any surveys funded by the U.S. Department of Education are given to minor children:
The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98) applies to programs that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). PPRA is intended to protect the rights of parents and students in two ways:
Parents or students who believe their rights under PPRA may have been violated may file a complaint with ED by writing the Family Policy Compliance Office. Complaints must contain specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that a violation of PPRA occurred.
- It seeks to ensure that schools and contractors make instructional materials available for inspection by parents if those materials will be used in connection with an ED-funded survey, analysis, or evaluation in which their children participate; and
It seeks to ensure that schools and contractors obtain written parental consent before minor students are required to participate in any ED-funded survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning:
- 1. Political affiliations;
2. Mental and psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the student and his/her family;
3. Sex behavior and attitudes;
4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior;
5. Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6. Legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; or
7. Income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
For additional information or technical assistance, you may call (202) 260-3887 (voice). Individuals who use TDD may call the Federal Information Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339. Or you may contact us at the following address:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-5920
(click HERE to visit the US Department of Education website where we found that law)
And some parents may be thinking... "What's the big deal? Those were anonymous surveys so they aren't really collecting personally identifiable data on my child." Someone is collecting that information to use for some purpose. And the time spent taking the 88 question survey is time that our kids could be learning. Anonymous or not, Momma Bears are suspicious of surveys given to our kids. Momma Bears has another personal Demographic Survey that we bet you didn't know about, and this one has each student's name directly tied to their answers:
THE PLAN PRE-TEST ASSESSMENT:
The PLAN PRE-TEST is given to 10th graders in TN to predict how they will do on the all-important ACT college entrance exam. These are definitely NOT anonymous. When students take this PLAN test, they are asked about an hour's worth of demographic questions. Parents aren't allowed to see those questions, but our children told us there are questions about: religious denomination, class schedule, address, GPA, Honors, if your parents are divorced, who do you live with, ethnicity/race, etc. Like the computerized climate surveys above, students could not skip questions they didn't want to answer. Not only are there personal questions, districts can also develop up to 30 local questions to add to the demographic survey part. (Click HERE to read more about the PLAN).
It is important to note that:
- A business could never ask those questions of someone applying for a job.
- Adults have more protections than students do.
- The penalty for breaking the PPRA law is a slap on the wrist.
Where is this information going? Who knows. Is it safe? Nothing is safe these days. Even major retail stores, like Target, and major Banks can't keep personal information secure. In fact, click HERE to see some scary security violations with students' personal information recently here in Tennessee schools! Yes, prisoners had access to private student information.
Another thing Momma Bears needs to warn you about is something called "Gaggle." In some districts, students in TN are required to sign up for a Gaggle account. This sounds like a neat program for safe online learning, but it gets a bit suspicious when they won't allow parents to have their child's password to see what is going on. Even creepier, Gaggle has a "Human Monitoring Service." Its website says that Gaggle's HMS team has "uncovered bullying, drug use, threats of school violence, teen depression, suicidal intentions, and abusive domestic situations." So, strangers are snooping on our children's private information, but parents can't see it? Unless a formal Law Enforcement Request is made, HMS data will be released only to the district contacts, and not parents. (Click HERE to find out about Gaggle)
What can you do about it?
Be vigilant, Momma Bears! Send a letter to your child's teacher and principal stating your child is not to be given any surveys or sign up for any online learning programs without your written permission. Ask to see the survey or program before you give permission, and be sure to ask who has access to the information. Before you sign anything, read the fine print.
Momma Bears, protect your babies! It is a scary world out there!!!
Has your child been given an inappropriate survey without your consent? or required to join websites that parents are not allowed access to? If so, Momma Bears wants to hear from you. Please contact us privately through our website's contact form: http://www.mommabears.org/contact-us.html
A group of TN parents are considering a class action lawsuit.
UPDATE BLOG to this inappropriate Climate Survey blog: