Image Credit: eplan.tn.gov
The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Maury County Public Schools began mental health assessments on children as young as 8 years old without first getting permission from parents. After realizing that parents had not been notified, the assessments were halted according to school counselor Aimee Pedersen. In an email sent to parents, Pedersen said that “all responses and data were deleted.” The assessments will resume after Fall Break.
Maury County Public Schools is partnering with Rethink Ed, a “one-stop online solution that enables districts, schools, and teachers to bring a methodical, research-based approach to social and emotional instruction.” The district is using part of its ESSER funding to pay for the “mental health and wellness program” – they have earmarked $343,800 for mental health purposes that include counselors and curriculum support.
In the email, parents are informed that “research clearly shows that social and emotional learning is a key component to positive outcomes in school.”
Teachers will use a student formative self-assessment tool developed by the Educational Records Bureau. Students complete the assessment using a five-point rating scale.
Sample questions include:
• I know how my teachers expect me to behave
• I work very well with other students
• I can concentrate in class for long periods of time
• When I feel sad or angry, I understand why I feel that way
Students in third grade through 12th grade will be assessed twice yearly unless parents opt out.
The district says that the data will not be shared with any outside entity but instead will be utilized by school counselors and teachers to develop lesson plans for classroom instruction.
Parents who wish to opt out must return the letter of notification to their child’s school counselor before September 30th.
Some Maury County parents say that social and emotional guidance is the territory of parents, not teachers. Others, who have left more progressive states, are sounding the alarm over Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs that they say will lead to Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) being taught in the classroom.
In light of the new school funding formula, TISA, that funds based on needs, some parents think the assessments are a tactic to get more funding redistributed to the district.
Sources tell us that one student who was given the initial assessment was upset by some of the questions that said he should keep them from his parents. The Tennessee Conservative has asked for a copy of the survey questions but has not yet been given a response to that request.
All school districts in Tennessee that took ESSER III funds must incorporate SEL programs into their curriculum.
TN Liberty Network published a white paper earlier this year that shows how the third round of ESSER funds are tied to SEL in K-12 schools.
According to Tennessee’s plan on the state website, the Department of Education “recognizes that the safe return to in-person instruction must be accompanied by a focus on meeting students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs…”
Tennessee Code 49-2-124 ensures that parents may refuse consent for mental health screenings, evaluations, testing or examinations. T.C.A 49-2-211 states that every LEA must have a policy that allows parents to review all surveys prior to being administered to students.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at email@example.com.