Parents Must Not Drop Their Guard After Scottsdale’s Apology For Inadvertent Inclusion Of Intrusive Questions

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By Loretta Hunnicutt

After vigilant parents sounded the alarm about a consent form they were asked to sign electronically that would have asked their children highly personal questions, Scottsdale Unified School District leadership apologized.

The District’s leadership advised parents that they would not be asked to authorize the District to “complete an emotional health and wellness screening of my child and to collect personal 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 District claims those issues were mentioned inadvertently in a portion of students’ annual verification packet:

On May 4, 2021, Scottsdale Unified School District’s (SUSD) administration recommended that the Governing Board approve the FastBridge program as a social emotional learning screener for students in Kindergarten through 12th grades. It was already being used as an academic screener for grades K through 3.

This social emotional screening program, which the Board voted to adopt, is used to evaluate students overall general behavior including but not limited to, social, academic and emotional behavior. Screening is typically completed within three minutes, with results available immediately to parents and staff. These findings enable our teachers, social worker and guidance counselor professionals to help identify students who may be in need of additional support and intervention programs and to make that support available as early as possible.

The screening tool is optional and one that parents have a choice to authorize for use with their children each school year.

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 waiver form that initially appeared in ParentVUE as part of the parents’ annual acknowledgment was a standard waiver form that had not yet been properly tailored to SUSD’s use. The form has since been amended to reflect the information that is actually collected. We apologize for this oversight and offer our services that SUSD does not support, endorse or collect any family personal information through FastBridge.

Leadership goes on to claim that Scottsdale parents “have stressed to us how important it is for schools to support their students social emotional learning.”

“Our sole goal in acquiring FastBridge,” wrote leadership, “is to be able to support the whole child and offer help to students sooner when we see that academic and behavioral issues in the classroom are limiting their opportunities to learn and grow.”

This “apology” raises too many questions and red flags. From the implication that a child’s social emotional well-being can be assessed in three minutes, to the claim that leadership is responding to parents’ pleas that the schools support their students’ social emotional learning, the missive misses the mark for any discerning reader.

Any educator who believes that they can assess a child in any meaningful way in three minutes is misguided at best and likely committing educational malpractice at worst.

The fact that our schools continue to cater to the fear-mongering teachers’ unions, thus strongly encouraging masks and vaccines for students K-8, clearly shows that they have put the students’ social and emotional well-being far down their list of priorities.

While the apology is appreciated by many parents, I fear that it will prompt them to drop their guard and not look carefully at the other consent forms they are asked to sign. There is also the danger that parents might assume that their children are not turning over this information in their classrooms at all when nothing could be further from the truth.

Parents need to be on guard at all times, and at all times they must assume that their children are products – the data they produce, the insights they give, the very supplies they prefer to bring to school are all of value to those who benefit – in one way or another – from the education industrial complex.