The Webster Groves School District in Missouri is under fire for violating state and federal privacy laws by subjecting students to probing surveys asking about political beliefs and affiliation, gender, sexual orientation and mental health status.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Monday agreed to investigate the issue after being alerted to the practice by the Southeast Legal Foundation, which was retained by Webster Groves parents after they learned of the practice.
‘We appreciate the Southeast Legal Foundation for bringing their concerns to the office, and have received similar allegations in districts across the state,’ Missouri Attorney General spokesman Chris Nuelle said in an email.
‘We have been working diligently to empower parents and return transparency to Missouri’s schools. We are currently closely reviewing the information contained in that letter and information in other districts, and will take action wherever possible.’
The surveys don’t just ask questions, but like the one pictured, they hope to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues
One survey of a second grader prompted him to look at his own race for the first time
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt agreed to look into the way school surveys were conducted and how the information is used
The foundation sent a 23-page letter to the state’s top lawyer, outlining a ‘cat-and-mouse game’ in which Webster Groves, and other districts, purchase surveys for civics classes or general student questionnaires from education companies that then turn around and sell expensive lesson plans to address the problems the surveys have uncovered.
‘They’re very lucrative contract,’ foundation lawyer Kimberly Herman said.
Although Hermann said she did not have information on how much Webster Groves is paying Panorama, the survey firm, another district Springfield Public Schools, pays $60,000 a year, she said. Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia pays the firm $2.4 million annually.
Panorama did not immediately respond to a DailyMail.com request for comment.
Federal law does not allow the collection of this information without parental consent and Missouri law does not allow the collection of the information at all.
The Webster Groves School District did not immediately respond to a call left for comment.
Herman said that the new lessons have a tendency to edge out the traditional curriculum.
‘What it really amounts to is racial programming,’ she said. ‘Teaching kids as young as four years old can pick their gender.’
The Webster Groves School district has not said what they used the information gathered in the surveys for or with whom the share it
Students are asked if they consider the school an inclusive environment
She said that federal law does not give parents the right to sue over the privacy violation, that’s why they turned to the state AG for help.
‘Parents are done sitting on the sidelines as America’s public schools violate our children’s privacy rights and collect personal information about them and our families,’ Herman said.
‘Schools need to get back to teaching math and how to read, not asking about gender identity or Planned Parenthood. These are conversations for parents to have with their children at an appropriate age. Schools shouldn’t be asking these questions in the first place. It is outrageous that they are doing it and not even telling parents.’
She declined to make her clients available to speak for fear of reprisals against them or their children by the school district.
Hermann said that students are told that they must take the surveys and if they don’t their parents will get a call about refusing to do work.
She also said that questionnaires are not anonymous, but it’s unclear who sees the answers and who knows how the students filled them out.
It’s unclear what the information is used for and who has access to it, Hermann said.
The questions ask about political ideology of the students and their parents, asking them to label them conservative, liberal or moderate. They are quizzed on which congress member they are most closely aligned and which political party they side with.
Students are pressed to say which elected officials they most closely identify with politically
Students are pressed to say which political party and ideology that they and their parents most closely identify with
Boys and girls are told that they must fill out the forms and if they don’t their parents will get a call about missing schoolwork
Questions about public funding for abortion, their stance on the death penalty, prayer in school, mental problem, sexual behavior and other personal question are also in the survey.
Herman said kids as young as 6 years old are questioned.
One parent of a second grader provided a questionnaire in which their child was asked which race he or she identified with.
The child circled white.
The next question was: When is the first time you noticed that people can be different races from you? The child wrote, ‘Now’ as the answer.