On paper it reads like a not-so-vague attempt to socially engineer your child’s behavior. In reality, teacher-led mental health assessments coming to a growing number of public schools are a bureaucratic nightmare. One that will no doubt further clog our nation’s public education system with increased paperwork and administrative costs while putting your child’s future at serious risk.
Thanks to Dr. Aida Cerundolo’s piece in The Wall Street Journal, we are beginning to understand the real-life ramifications of these dangerous educational ideas. Want the Cliffs Notes version? Head over to the excellent summation by Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, detailing the ramifications of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal bill focused on the buzz-phrase “Social Emotional Learning” (SEL), the latest craze in public education. Schools in states that have ESSA legislation on the books can use the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) to fulfill ESSA paperwork requirements.
…every month the teacher must answer 72 questions about each of the perhaps dozens of students in her class. She must assess whether the student “carr[ies] himself with confidence,” whatever that means for a 5-year-old, and whether he can “cope well with insults and mean comments.”
… Dr. Cerundolo’s alarm at the imposition of DESSA is shared by at least some New Hampshire teachers. One of them contacted Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire, to express her objections to completing the DESSA forms on her students. The teacher was especially troubled that the school neither sought parental consent nor even notified parents that their children were being screened by amateurs for mental-health issues. As the mother of public-school students, she worried that other teachers were completing this assessment on her children.
You read that right: if you live in an ESSA state, your child’s mental health will be assessed by a non-medical professional in a non-medical context. The paperwork will not be protected by HIPAA laws, which means that the school district can share a teacher’s assessment of your child’s mental health with literally anyone. Parents are not asked for permission before the DESSA is administered, nor do they have any say over where the records go once they are obtained.
The company that sells DESSA has a deep financial stake in SEL. As Ann Marie Banfield found out:
DESSA is there to rate students on their behaviors but then to offer intervention to improve their scores. Social awareness is one of the key competencies to ensure the students are aware and accepting of race and diversity. These software programs profit 3rd party vendors when they sell the program to your school district. The [vendor] then collects non-academic data on your child, rates your child’s behaviors and attitudes, then makes more money by selling products to correct them.
In other words, your child isn’t just learning facts, he’s learning how to interpret and communicate those facts in a socially acceptable way that is sensitive to the feelings of others. Facts may not care about your feelings, but school administrators held under the Fed’s thumb do. I wonder how George Orwell makes these folks feel? Perhaps like “two legs are good, but four legs are better”?
For more information on legislated SEL standards in your state, click here.