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Missouri Attorney General Subpoenas Seven School Districts Over Student Surveys, Launches Transparency Portal

Jun 8, 2022, 12:04 PM by AG Schmitt
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Today, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt subpoenaed seven school districts (Mehlville School District, Webster Groves School District, Jefferson City School District, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Park Hill School District, Springfield School District, and Neosho School District) demanding information on the school districts decision to employ student surveys, potentially without parental consent, including some that asked students about their parents’ political beliefs and parents’ income levels and included racially-biased questions, among other things. The Attorney General’s Office also launched a transparency portal that indexes Sunshine Law requests sent to school districts on behalf of parents, which can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/other-resources/students-first-initiative/transparency-portal

“As Attorney General, I’ve made it my mission to work to empower parents and increase transparency in Missouri schools. Subjecting students to personal, invasive surveys created by third-party consultants potentially without parents’ consent is ridiculous and does nothing to further our children’s education. After learning of these surveys, my Office has opened an investigation and sent subpoenas to seven school districts across the state to get to the bottom of these surveys and put a stop to them,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Further, through our Students First Initiative, we’ve received submissions from parents across Missouri, and in an effort to increase transparency in our schools, my Office has sent open records requests to a number of schools across the state. Parents are encouraged to browse our new transparency portal and see the documents and information that districts have provided our office. I encourage parents to continue to submit objectionable curriculum and policies and practices, as my Office continues to fight for transparency and the right of parents to know exactly what is being taught to their children.”
 
Seven school districts across Missouri were found to be employing “student surveys,” including some that ask students personal and otherwise unnecessary questions about their parents’ political views and income, and questions about their sexuality, as well as racially motivated or leading questions. According to information sent to the Attorney General’s Office, school districts are employing student surveys that are created by third-party companies like Panorama Education Inc. and Project Wayfinder Inc.
 
The subpoenas inquire whether the districts’ actions violate Missouri state statute 161.096, the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act, or the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, and demand documents and information to determine the extent of the surveys and if parents consented to the surveys prior to distribution to students, amidst other important information. 
 
As part of the Students First Initiative, launched in March, the Attorney General’s Office also launched a transparency portal that compiles open records requests that the Attorney General’s Office has sent to a number of school districts based on parent submissions through the Students First Initiative, or inquiring about certain school districts’ contracts with “diversity, equity, and inclusion” consultants. 
 
Those open records requests and documents received by the Attorney General’s Office can be found through the transparency portal here: https://ago.mo.gov/other-resources/students-first-initiative/transparency-portal
 
Through submissions and open records requests, the Attorney General’s Office also uncovered a number of objectionable teacher trainings and assignments, including a “witnessing whiteness” teacher training, a student reading assignment that tells students to analyze a novel in “feminist” or “Marxist” lens, a slide from a school board seminar that visualizes the “cycle of oppression/socialization,” and more. 
 
The Attorney General’s Office also sent a civil investigative demand to Educational Equity Consultants, a “diversity, equity, and inclusion” consultant that frequently works with a number of Missouri schools.