An elementary school in Missouri took the challenge, to connect school activities to real world applications, in a direction that led to an assignment that is in direct conflict with federal law. (To protect my source I am not naming the district nor showing the specific document. The assignment looked to be photocopied from a prepared curriculum. I offer today’s post as a warning to other parents around the state who may see similar assignments coming their childrens’ school)

The assignment was for the 4th grade child to discuss the upcoming election with his/her parent(s) and then answer a few questions IN WRITING.

  1. What do you feel is the role of government?

Any response to this question is a matter of opinion, not fact. And since it is the result of a conversation with a parent, the answer is about the parent’s opinion of the role of government. This is investigating the parent’s attitude towards government via the child.

2. What party generally supports the viewpoint you have regarding the role of government? (students can either respond with their parent’s perspective or what they find on-line.)

This question, if answered with the parent’s response, will clearly indicate what the parent’s party preference is. Remember that the child is providing this information in writing meaning it could be collected and/or used later.

3.  What three issues are important to you and your family?  What is your opinion of or feeling about the issue?

Wouldn’t this information be a gold mine for campaign managers for the future? The child’s opinion about these issues is part of values clarification. A teacher, attempting to discuss this assignment with the class, would have to be incredibly adroit at diplomacy to not let anyone judge another child’s values or do so him/herself. Combine this response with the answer to question 4 and you have a minefield of party judgement.

4.   What candidate agrees with this issue?

In other words, what candidate would the child (really the child’s parent(s)) vote for?

First the assignment wants to know what party the family identifies with. Then it seeks to find out what the child’s values are and lastly it would like to know which candidate the family is planning to vote for.  Anyone see the problem here? Remember the 350 data points that the DQC would like included in each child’s data record which includes party affiliation? This would be one way to capture that information without formally polling the parents.

This current-events activity is in direct violation of the Protection of Pupil Rights Act (PPRA 20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98) which says:

(b) Limits on survey, analysis, or evaluations

No student shall be required, as part of any applicable program, to submit to a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning—

(1) political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent;

(2) mental or psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;

(3) sex behavior or attitudes;

(4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or 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;

(7) religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or

(8) income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program), without the prior consent of the student (if the student is an adult or emancipated minor), or in the case of an unemancipated minor, without the prior written consent of the parent.

If your child’s school is trying to be current and has put out similar types of exercises, please let them know they are violating federal law with such assignments, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY ARE COLLECTING THE INFORMATION IN AN OFFICIAL SCHOOL FILE OR NOT.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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