Part II. The Quiet Culling of Children’s Classics: Are Public School Librarians the Real “Book Banners”?

Asking questions, listening to my kids, and trusting my instincts: this was how I discovered what was going on in libraries.

In 2017 my children were coming home with very poor quality literature. They could read one of these “books” in 20 minutes. Our books at home took hours for them to read; something didn’t seem right with these library books. The book covers looked cartoonish and commercialized. I flipped through them and discovered many modeled detrimental behavior such as how-tos on bullying, crude humor, disrespect toward adults and the elderly, and socially unacceptable behavior and language.

I asked my children to select more enriching books and guided them on what to seek. They came home empty handed, time and time again. They reiterated only a few books were available, but they’d already read them. So in 2017 I researched library holdings from several of our district’s elementary school libraries; it was VERY concerning.

Recently, I performed a more extensive search of library holdings at one library from the 2017 analysis. The search was expanded to 102 classics and well-regarded children’s authors. Many of these authors are on Mensa reading lists, NIH reading lists, and an author list published by Dr. Sandra Stotsky.

The selected elementary school is an A rated elementary school in Hillsborough County Public Schools, FL with over 800 students in 2022-23. What I found, or rather didn’t find, in this library is alarming.

Children’s classics seem to have been disappeared from this school library serving over 800 students. Today, there are six fewer book titles in this library from the list of 35 authors selected in 2017.

From the expanded selection of 102 authors, there were only 151 books in the library. 53% of these authors had ZERO books in this library. 91% of these authors had three or fewer books in this library. (See pie chart below.) Keep in mind some of these 102 authors wrote dozens of children’s books and many wrote more than a few.

The 102 authors are represented by an average of only 1.48 books per author. If the top 5 authors (contemporary authors) were removed, this average falls to 0.87 books per author.

On the other hand, there are 194 books in this school library from just five popular, contemporary authors that include titles like Captain Underpants, Dog Man, and Dork Diaries. (See bar graph below). The Captain Underpants series is frequently found on “banned book” lists, yet there are plenty of these books in this library. These five authors average 39 books per author and represent 1.96% of the library holdings (9,896 books). Five authors represent a larger percentage of this library’s holdings than 102 highly-respected authors.

Who is really disappearing books, our history, and our common cultural heritage? This is The Quiet Culling of Children’s Classics.

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The Quiet Culling of Children’s Classics: Are Public School Librarians the Real “Book Banners”?

Critics call them “Book Banners”, “Book Burners”, even “Fascists”, but parents simply do not want anyone exposing children to graphic, obscene, and profane material behind their backs. This disingenuous name-calling obscures the truth: too many school librarians have ALREADY “banned books”. Libraries are full of series after series of dumbed down children’s publications, but classics are disappearing and with it knowledge of our history and common cultural heritage.

In 2021 CNN wrote “Libraries oppose censorship. So they’re getting creative when it comes to offensive kids’ books”. I wondered, just HOW creative?

The article wasn’t talking about “offensive kids’ books” that depict graphic and obscene sexual behavior. It was referring to Dr. Seuss books, Little House on the Prairie, and Peter Pan.

According to CNN, Deborah Caldwell Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said:

It’s up to librarians, then, to determine whether those books and others with racist content still deserve a spot on their shelves.

“The fact is that library collections are dynamic,” she said. “There’s only so much shelf space, and over time collections will shift.”

If a librarian decides a book is “no longer serving the needs of the community,” it may be weeded out, Caldwell Stone said.

The quoted ALA director tip-toes creatively around the word “ban” again and again; using language like shifting collections, sidelining books, carving out space for other books, weeding books that no longer serve community needs, moving books to the adult collection, or relegating offensive children’s classics to historical artifact. In other words, a “book ban”.

While the article does say these offensive books may still stay on shelves, the ALA policies seem designed to remove them.

In 2018 the ALA stripped Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a book award because history is insensitive. This is just another attempt to erase history, and that will not lead to an informed populace. This is to be expected from the Marxist-led American Library Association.

The ALA creatively discourages or sidelines books they don’t like, then masquerades as an advocate of Intellectual Freedom and protector from literary censorship! Librarians have the freedom to relegate traditional children’s classics to the archives and make room for 50+ Captain Underpants and Dog Man books while claiming to widen and expand the children’s library collection.

Look closely, what do you notice about these shelves from a school library? The collection did not expand, it contracted down to one-half to two-thirds empty shelves. I searched this half-shelf phenomenon; librarians are emptying shelves on purpose!? I observed this years ago between local public library visits with my kids. It was pretty obvious what had happened. There was an extensive removal of library books and it stayed that way.

What happens when children’s classic books are sidelined? Do these great time-tested classics become less circulated? Does the ALA encourage librarians to weed-out less circulated books? I imagine so.

The ALA recommends the CREW procedures for weeding books from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. This CREW manual states:

Under Easy Readers/Picture Books: “Weed any book that has not circulated in the past two years.” and “Consider moving classics that may be used by children’s literature classes to the adult 800s.”

For Juvenile Fiction: “Copyright is less important than use, but consider weeding anything that hasn’t circulated in the past two years.” and “Weed older award winners if they have not circulated in three years,…”

For Young Adult Fiction:“Keep this section very current. Any item that has not circulated within two years should be considered ‘dead’ and removed (and anything that hasn’t circulated within the past year is suspect and should be evaluated for promotion, relocation, or discard).”

Is the ALA encouraging the strategic removal of older copyrights and high-quality children’s classics from school libraries?

The American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Journal, Knowledge Quest, published a post suggesting statistics can help defend why librarians need to weed out books. Statistics such as “Books whose publication dates are older than you (or your kids). (This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but one to consider)”

“Want to weed 1,000 books? Keep tweaking your limits until you reach the number of books you need to weed”

Wow. Using publication date to remove a desired number of books! That sounds like a money maker for book sellers and publishers! Are school libraries being monetized too?

The Virginia Association of School Librarians offers a “Follett School Solutions’ Weed and Feed Grant” that requires weeding books in order to achieve improvement in average copyright age and/or circulations after weeding of the book collection.” [emphasis added]

Weed to increase average copyright age?! That is a good policy for erasing history. It is like trashing your bottles of aged French Burgundy and replacing it with new boxed-wine. What’s next? Are Michelangelo, Picasso, Monet, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder to be tossed aside for new computer art?

Weed to increase circulation?! That is like a grocer saying we aren’t turning our inventory enough, let’s remove the broccoli and put candy bars there instead! Just give ‘em the CANDY and SODA, it sells more and who needs nutrition?!!

Change the foods offered and change people’s health. Change the books offered and change what and how a child thinks.

Remove food that promotes health and people become unhealthy.

The ALA suggests sidelining offensive classics. Then school library organizations encourage removal of books with poor circulation and older publication dates.

In Florida, the reading award program, SSYRA, was heavily marketed to students in our elementary school. One requirement of books selected for this program is “Books must have been originally copyrighted within the three years preceding selection.” JUST. THREE. YEARS.

Our school district’s Library Media Center Collection Management policy states: “The school library media specialist shall discard worn, obsolete and inoperable items from the collection;…The library media specialist shall select new and replacement materials in order to duplicate older titles which have proven their worth.”

This is a nebulous policy, it is not clear. By what standard are titles proving their worth?

Are we losing the children’s classics in school libraries or are they already gone?

In the next post, I will answer that question and provide you with a more extensive survey from one of the five school libraries I researched in 2017.

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The ALA’s Dedication to Transforming Public School Libraries

Let’s take a peek into the American Library Association (ALA) and a few of its’ divisions that appear to be executing an end run around parents and restrictions intended to comply with laws protecting children from CRT, obscene, and age-inappropriate material.  Might some say that the ALA is an operation overtly indoctrinating not only children but also librarians?

In June 2021 the Florida Department of Education banned the “teaching of the controversial topic of critical race theory [CRT]” and then in April this year the legislature prohibited the teaching of CRT in schools.  Despite these actions Hillsborough County School District continues to rely on the ALA.  To clear up any confusion about why Florida school districts should not be affiliating with the ALA, the title from an April 2022 article should help: “World’s Largest Library Association Picks Self-Proclaimed Marxist As President.”

The ALA explains in the document below that its’ subgroup, “The Challenges to CRT and Diversity Training Toolkit” met in September 2021 to prepare librarians for “censorship challenges to ‘critical race theory’…” with the goal of creating “a resource that will prepare library workers to defend their collections, counter falsehoods, and engage their communities in important conversations about racial injustice…”   

This sounds like they are actively engaged in ways to combat opposition to CRT.  So, why would a Florida school district use standards, guidance, and book lists from an organization actively supporting CRT when it has been banned in Florida?

How are books in Hillsborough County Public School (HCPS) libraries selected? HCPS responded to a record request with a document titled “Polices and Procedures for the Selection of Media Materials [sic].”  Their policies and procedures are based on an ALA publication and include several ALA recommended resources (book lists) to assist in book selection.  The HCPS document also provides a link to the ALA Selection Policy Toolkit

HCPS also linked their document in Canva (that can be clicked through) with an added diagram and sticker claiming AASL / ALA “policies align with state and national standards”; so they say.

Welcome to the ALA.  Here is a visual of the Toolkit referenced in HCPS “Polices [sic]”.


The toolkit describes its’ policies for selecting controversial materials here:

If you donate books such as Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie to your school library, will the library keep or dispose of them?  Given the smearing of Wilder by the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children), another division of the ALA, the total absence of Wilder’s books on frontier life in some HCPS libraries is not surprising.  Here is the ALA toolkit guidance on donations:

The ALA also appears to promote “banned” book lists and encourages school librarians to create displays of “banned” books during Banned Book Week.  In fact, the ALA has an entire website dedicated to Banned and Challenged Books, a website of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.

It is disingenuous to describe a book that violates obscenity laws for minors as “banned”.  Any book that violates the obscenity law cannot be distributed in Florida public schools.

The ALA also hosts an ALA Connect website for groups like The Progressive Librarians Guild, an organization committed to “supporting activist librarians” and “providing a forum for open exchange of radical views…” 

There are more ALA affiliated organizations—including the AASL (American Association of School Librarians).  The AASL states they are “the only national professional membership organization focused on school librarians and the school library community.”

The AASL 2023 National Conference will be held in Tampa.

Next, is YALSA.  YALSA is the Young Adult Library Services Association, also a division of the ALA.  One YALSA book list is referenced in the HCPS Media Services “Polices and Procedures [sic]” document.  Here is a visual of their Book & Media Lists:

YALSA recommends its “Best Fiction for Young Adults” for ages 12-18; your 12-year-old is now a “young adult.”

Here is an excerpt from the 2020 YALSA Top 10 Best Fiction list:

The ALA appears to be thumbing their nose at parental rights and parents who do not want their 12-year-olds accessing library material about sex, abortion, drug addiction, and shooting up. 

Why are school librarians using standards produced by an organization that promotes age-inappropriate material be made available to their 12 year olds; including highlighting the material in jailhouse displays during banned book week? 

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Cameras in Florida Classrooms: 30 Points Leading to NO

What is the effect of training kids to submit to surveillance all day? China does it—and then uses the surveillance to social credit score citizens and limit freedom. What is the psychological impact on kids from cameras in classrooms? Will it inhibit kids from asking questions to learn or increase anxiety?

The motivations and interest in classroom cameras are understandable but in short: it is a CAN OF WORMS and a SLIPPERLY SLOPE that drags along unintended consequences.

1/ FERPA is an outdated federal law “protecting” student privacy. It was weakened (not strengthened) many years ago.  Schools can now designate vendors as “school officials” and then share your kids’ data with those vendors and they can do it without parental consent.

2/ FERPA is supposed to protect privacy, but IMO it doesn’t work well at all. There are serious student data privacy issues with EdTech and surveillance that continue to go unaddressed by school districts and legislators around the country, including Florida.

3/ Despite Florida’s Parental Rights Law, data we don’t want collected will still be collected even though it really serves no educational purpose.

4/ If cameras in classrooms were allowed under Florida statutes via HB1055, and school districts went on to approve implementation: would cameras actually be implemented according to the limited protections in the bill?

5/ The surveillance proposal, HB1055, requires in class audio recordings, BUT last year Florida passed a Parental Rights Law that states: “The right to consent in writing before the state or any of its political subdivisions makes a video or voice recording of his or her minor child”.

It appears that HB1055 is proposing to remove that parental right to consent!

HB1055 proposes: “Each video camera…must be…capable of all of the following: 1. Visually monitoring and recording all areas of the classroom. 2. Recording audio from all areas of the classroom.”

6/ Even if an opt-in or opt-out of surveillance did exist, will the school district ask?  If they ask, how are they going to implement an opt-out for just a subset of children in every class and elective?

7/ The Parental Rights Law passed last year states parents have “The right to consent in writing before a biometric scan of his or her minor child is made, shared, or stored.”

As well, Florida Statute 1002.222 states: Schools may not “Collect, obtain, or retain information on the…biometric information of a student…Examples of biometric information include…a fingerprint or hand scan, a retina or iris scan, a voice print, or a facial geometry scan [facial recognition].”

Note: the above FL Statute was passed after students were iris scanned in Polk County, FL with NO parental consent.  Read about iris scanning here.

8/ How do legislators expect school districts to Conceal the identity of any student who appears in a video recording, but is not involved in the alleged incident…”  without facial geometry scanning (facial recognition) or voice prints?!!  How are they doing this now on their existing cameras?

9/ Our Florida district can’t or won’t give parents: vendor data dictionaries (list of data collected), metadata that vendors have collected on children, or a list of the vendors who have received or collected data on the students. Does the district not know what data is collected?

10/ Under FERPA, school districts must be in direct control of the vendor (school official) with respect to maintenance and use of student data: but are they?

11/ FERPA creates limitations; there is a limit to what school officials can do with data and what data they access. Yet, if school districts don’t know what is collected or everything vendor software and algorithms do then how can the district ensure the limitation is enforced?

How does the school district know a vendor isn’t running facial recognition or training AI using camera footage if they don’t maintain direct control of data or don’t know what is collected or created by a vendor? Who would ever know?

13/ Classroom camera footage is probably not going to an offline server in the front office. It will likely be transmitted and stored in the BIGTECH cloud online. This would mean your school district is sharing that footage of your child with third parties.

14/ When a vendor says data is not 100% secure, could that also mean 80% secure, or 50%, or 25%?

15/ How is the data accessed and viewed? Probably through third party software. How secure is that software?  Your data will likely be subject to their privacy policy and often these third parties are private companies.

16/ Who inspects vendor hardware and software for vulnerabilities that might open the door to unapproved access or leaking of footage? Who inspects the transmission of data to ensure it is only going where it is supposed to go and that it is encrypted as advertised?

17/ Are those cameras manufactured in the U.S. or China? Federal law banned Chinese cameras in U.S. government for a reason.

Why isn’t this kind of attention focused on protecting the privacy of our children in schools from companies, government, and foreign countries?

18/ Who controls the data shared with and collected by third party companies under FERPA? The school district is supposed to have direct control, but do they really?  Again, our district can’t/won’t tell us all specific data collected by these third party companies.

19/ Who oversees what student data is shared with a vendor’s (“school official”) partners? If companies use partners (other companies) for performing some of their functions, then when the data goes to a vendor (or “school official”) is it really being shared with many vendors?

20/ Under FERPA, would parents actually be able to get access to the camera footage, or will it be a battle to obtain if schools use FERPA to block access to footage? Either way you lose privacy and the possibility is that no benefit materializes but plenty of unintended consequences could arise.

21/ Dangers: Hacking, leaking, tracking, dossier creation, use of incorrect data in dossiers that you cannot see (ahem: district refuses to hand it ALL over) that could damage college or career opportunities, data used against students maliciously (FBI EdTech warning),…

So, could camera footage be used against students in unexpected ways?

22/ Do vendors sell the data: Eh, no? But most policies I have read indicate the company can transfer the data in a merger or acquisition.  Is this what happened when Chinese NetDragon bought the EdTech company Edmodo that held data on U.S. schoolchildren? Might that be a national security issue?

23/ The education sector is a common target for cyberattacks due to the prolific amount of data stored on children.  One big company reportedly boasted about how much data they hold on students.  Some companies might use anonymized data for training their Artificial Intelligence (AI).

24/ Are companies able to effectively “anonymize” data?  Does anyone contact you when the data (anonymized or not) is researched, used in analytics, or artificial intelligence?

What if anonymized data can be re-identified?  Some say it is hard to truly anonymize data; so how well are companies performing this task? How would you know?

25/ BOTTOMLINE:  If they are collecting student data and storing it online, there are risks.  Just do some searches on the ransomware that has targeted schools. Florida Virtual Schools reportedly leaked student data years ago.

26/ Yes, there are more issues: proper configuration of the cameras, maintenance of firmware and thus ongoing security, and data retention policies: SPECIFIC maximum periods that data can be held (not just minimums) so data isn’t held indefinitely.

27/ Does anyone at the school district verify data retention policies are carried out on an ongoing basis?  Do you trust your school district to validate that data was deleted?  Are they permitted access to vendor servers/backups to validate data was deleted?  Do you trust the vendor?

Was data properly deleted? Does the school district know all locations where the data is stored, distributed, backed up, and archived for every vendor?  How do districts verify if all copies held by vendors were deleted and what do school districts define as “deleted” – is it wiped or just deleted?

Lifewire explains: “when you delete something…you don’t remove it from existence, you just hide it from yourself. The actual data that makes up whatever you deleted is still there,…”

HB1055 instructs the data “shall be deleted or otherwise made unretrievable”.  Why “shall” instead of “must” and why the use of OR?  How does the statute define “deleted”? Does this language mean there is an obligation to completely eliminate the data from all electronic storage locations?

28/ What if the child just doesn’t want to be surveilled all day? Do they have to give up their constitutional right to privacy in order to receive a public education?

29/ Kids cannot pick another public school system; will schools have surveilled and unsurveilled classrooms? How will that work with teacher shortages? A student cannot change schools—they have one school system to pick from…unless their parents move.  Kind of like how people are leaving California for Florida.

30/ Lastly: PRIVACY is a human right and essential to FREEDOM.

After all this, it sure seems easier and safer to just stop collecting so much data.  So, why are they collecting so much data?

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School Mandates: A Violation of Student Privacy and Human Rights?

The public comments below were delivered at the Hillsborough County School Board Meeting on December 14, 2021:

Privacy is a human right and essential to our freedom.

Maybe you keep your curtains open at night, install spyware like Ring and Alexa in your home, or put Chinese apps like TikTok and Zoom on your phone.  Those are your choices.

The school district doesn’t decide what is right for a child, parents do. Years of hard work protecting our childrens’ digital footprint, irreversibly gone thanks to you!

You have a responsibility to protect the privacy rights of students; ignorance of technologies you choose to deploy is no excuse.

Florida’s Constitution states: Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life.

Worse than this you mandate intrusion from private and public companies that collect, research, and share children’s data.

Are school districts allowing companies to monetize data collected on children?

In March 2020 Canvas was sold to private equity for $2B and filed for an IPO this year.  In March 2019 a former CEO of Canvas’ parent company reportedly said:

“We have the most comprehensive database on the educational experience in the globe…no one else has those data assets at their fingertips to be able to develop those algorithms and predictive models.”

He said one of their initiatives “is first and foremost a platform for ML [Machine Learning] and AI [Artificial Intelligence], and we will deliver and monetize it…”

An investigation into a privacy complaint against Edsby was completed this year by the office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

The investigation concluded Edsby “lacked a comprehensive information security framework to protect the personal information of hundreds of thousands of students”.

Why haven’t Florida legislators STOPPED the excessive use of education technologies?  Why haven’t you? You are trading our children’s data for services.

You said unless we digitize our child’s private medical record and give it to some company you would withhold sports from our children.  Does that constitute extortion or just violate our constitutional rights?

Are you violating our rights so you don’t get sued when you can’t keep track or responsibly collect paper paperwork?

We wouldn’t submit to your digital mandate when you attempted to extort our children’s personal data like a pay to play scheme.  Students pay with their personal data and digital privacy for access to play sports.

Digital mandates are not least restrictive.  We gave you ALL the paperwork you requested on paper, but you still kicked our children out of girls’ basketball.

Cathryn Moering
Hillsborough County School District Parent

Hillsborough County School Board Meeting Comments
December 14, 2021

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Surveillance and EdTech Tyranny

The public comments below were delivered at the Hillsborough County School Board Meeting on November 16, 2021:

Privacy is a human right and essential to freedom

Today you propose a $2.5M contract for a Camera and Access Control system.  These products are capable of contact tracing; identifying the infected child, their “zone”, contacts, and other unspecified personal data.  The company offers the artificial intelligence [AI] services facial and emotional recognition.  Whose data are they using to train their AI?  Is this going to be a repeat of the Polk County Schools 2013 iris scanning fiasco? That mess ushered in a new law prohibiting districts from biometric collection.

You approved a GPS Bus proposal that included 100,000 student RFID trackers. Our children are NOT your property to track.  That company advertises future uses of their RFIDs include behavioral intervention programs.

This district refused our opt out of lunchroom meal tracking even when we paid cash.  What is the compelling governmental interest you have in that data and how is it narrowly tailored?

Our experience: Once this district adopts tracking technologies like iReady, MyPaymentsPlus, Edsby, PlanetHS, Canvas it does NOT ALLOW opt outs.

This school district forces EdTech that tracks medical, dietary, psychological, and other personal data that is stored in the cloud. These are dossiers on children! China weaponizes data and systems like these. EdTech companies often share data with more vendors and partners; one privacy policy reveals they store data overseas.  Do U.S. laws apply overseas?

No one to my knowledge from this district has the permission or skill to critically inspect proprietary vendor software for compliance with law.

Student data collected can be transferred in a sale or merger.  Edmodo sold their EdTech platform to the Chinese Company NetDragon.  It seems there are NO laws governing this; it has been referred to as a national security problem.

Florida politicians are a decade late and counting on meaningful privacy legislation. 

Cathryn Moering
Hillsborough County School District Parent

Hillsborough County School Board Meeting Comments
November 16, 2021

Posted in Data Privacy, EdTech Tyranny, Hillsborough School Board, Hillsborough Schools, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Surveillance and EdTech Tyranny

Hillsborough Schools Blocks Girls’ Shot at Basketball

child carrying a basketball

The public comments below were delivered at the Hillsborough County School Board Meeting on November 2, 2021:

Privacy is a human right and essential to freedom. BigTech snoops in your personal matters in ways you are unaware. But you are not helpless.  Tell the school district to stop collecting so much data on your kids.  Ask to see ALL the data. Forced data collection is EdTech Tyranny; we were unable to opt out.

My girls were kicked out of public school basketball because we refused to digitize and give their medical data to a for-profit private company with a privacy policy we could not agree to. We did provide all required paper work on paper.

School district lawyers advised our district leadership not to accept paper paperwork. One reason: “student safety”. Children are NOT safer with private data stored online; it risks a child’s data to hacking and sale on the dark web.  We said NO.  You should too.  It is EdTech tyranny.

Public schools are not cyber experts. They are low hanging fruit cybercriminals go after, it’s a well-known problem and it’s why the White House just directed a U.S. CyberSecurity Agency to study this problem in public schools.

In 2018 the FBI’s EdTech alert reported that hackers had extorted parents “and threatened students with physical violence and release of their personal information.” 

In 2019 a Canadian college student discovered through an appeals process that Canvas, the same Canvas our district uses that we pay for, had collected around 400 million data points on him alone.

Data is collected with every mouse movement or click on some EdTech platforms. Read privacy policies.  Question and research what they mean; words like licensing, partners, and “not 100% secure”.  How do you know it isn’t 0% secure? Data isn’t kind of breached; it is or it isn’t. [End of public comments; allocated time cut in half at School Board Meeting]

How do you verify data collected on your children is correct when you don’t know what data exists? Think what havoc incorrect data could play in college admissions or algorithms.

My public records request for district EdTech data dictionaries has gone unfulfilled for over a year. Florida’s Department of Education publishes their data dictionary why can’t the school district?

We pay companies to collect data on our children that could be researched, aggregated, and licensed then hidden from parents?!  You know who hid data: The Stasi; and China does it today. The more they digitize about you, the more they can manipulate, limit freedom, or destroy your life.

Canvas, Clever, Edsby, iReady, BrainPop, Flipgrid, Seesaw, Kahoot, Lunchroom software, Khan Academy: Do you trust the district to oversee the security and safety of all these apps and more?  Who investigates where the data goes, who they share it with, and how secure their systems are.  Every message sent, completed assignment, artwork, picture posted, question asked, medical record, book read, and SEL survey stored in the cloud; it is all data at risk.

Cathryn Moering
Hillsborough County School District Parent

HCSD Special Called Board Meeting Comments
November 2, 2021

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A War on Parents and a Waste of Taxpayer Dollars: Social Emotional Learning

woman placing her finger between her lips

Hillsborough County School Board (ahem: IMO law breakers!) recently approved spending $362,500 annually on Panorama Social Emotional Learning (SEL) surveys.  It was not spent on reading, writing, or arithmetic; it was spent on a contract with Panorama Education for SURVEYS asking our children about personal social and emotional stuff.  SEL sounds good, but it’s not.

In 2020 Hillsborough schools described the Panorama SEL Survey as a “New district-wide tool to gather data to support student SEL needs.” 1

What do they mean by “data”? How sensitive are those questions in the survey? Here’s a thought: the school district should publish the survey online!  But does the company allow that?

The State of Florida publishes their student risky behavior surveys because parents and citizens have a right to see its’ content.

In August this year the school district explained: “Panorama will provide educators with a research-backed survey, and actionable data reports to support each student’s SEL needs” (Aug 12, 2021 School Board Agenda Item Details).

Oh…they’ve used the words “research-backed”; does that make surveying children on personal and sensitive topics a legitimate activity?

  • Will the children have “SEL needs” if their survey answers don’t conform to a specific ideology?
  • Educators get actionable reports? What about the parents?
  • What do they mean by “actionable data report”? Could children be manipulated through the actions taken from an “actionable data report”?
  • What will Panorama do with all that sensitive data? Could it get hacked? Because, hey, what data isn’t getting hacked and sold on the dark web these days? With whom is aggregate data shared (please don’t leave out any “trusted” partners or researchers)?

The school district conveniently forgot to mention educators are not trained mental health professionals or psychologists, but survey results will beAvailable to all district leaders, schools, and teachers to explicitly teach SEL skills and embed SEL strategies with academics.”

It would be nice know the school district’s definition of “academics”.

Were parents told about the survey with enough time to opt out?  Parents should know their PPRA rights to be informed prior to administration of surveys that collect certain kinds of information on students.

Panorama describes its’ Student SEL Survey as follows2:


Wow, that is quite a survey and, yes, Panorama misspelled social as “socials”; unless Panorama means they survey how students feel about social media apps they use? 🤷‍♀️ Is Panorama measuring a child’s self-perception on nebulous topics encompassed by the words “social and emotional skills”? Are they assessing students on their self-confidence and emotional state? What does “more” mean?

Are we in the Matrix, where up is coded as down, and feelings and data gathering are the new education?  Who needs to learn that Soh Cah Toa are acronyms used to remember trigonometric formulas when children can have their “socials” measured, assessed, and addressed with actionable reports?

This seems like another contract funding a private company to make big bucks off our children.  Remember all those collected bits and bytes are like gold.  But, is it worse than what seems like prying private eyes and money money makin’?

The district leader named on the Panorama Service Order (dated July 2021) was Hillsborough County School District (HCSD) Czar: Chief of Climate and Culture.  Why is that a leadership role in our district when we have had serious problems with literacy?

Where is the study substantiating that $10 million on digital platforms like “I-Ready, Achieve3000 and SIPPS” are (statistically significantly) helping our students?  Who is really benefitting from the $10 million in taxpayer dollars spent on platforms owned by for-profit private companies while we face financial crisis after financial crisis?

A $3 billion+ budget is very big.  As children, some were taught that pennies make nickels, nickels make dimes, and dimes make dollars.  Does someone need to explain how it all adds up to our school district?

Has the climate and culture in that ugly upside-down pyramid building in downtown Tampa (HCSD headquarters) caused the district to stray so far from its’ core purpose that the school board thinks we need Attorney General Merrick Garland’s son-in-law’s “woke” Panorama Education Surveys?

SEL has been a growing problem in our district for many years and has flown under the radar.  For those that don’t know, SEL has been taught in the sixth grade elective rotational program.  Did your school tell you that?

Hillsborough Schools even had a couple of district employees working on an SEL paper published in 2018 by the Aspen Institute, a progressive institute.  The paper was authored by Hillsborough School’s “SEL Coordinator” and the school district’s Assistant Superintendent was one of the paper’s “distinguished educators” that contributed to its’ “Consensus Statements of Practice”.

In 2018, I asked many questions about this SEL paper, like if the district was allowing employees to “[take] direction from” the institute while on district (taxpayer) time: no answer.  But let’s get back to Panorama.

According to Forbes, AG Merrick Garland’s son-in-law is co-founder and president of Panorama Education and:

“…Panorama Education sells surveys to school districts across the country that focus on the local “social and emotion climate.” These surveys are then used as justification for new curriculum from other providers that some parents call critical race theory and find objectionable.” [emphasis added]

See how that works: money money makin’ leads to more money money makin’. So now we need to BUY surveys to the tune of $362,000 annually, no wonder we can’t find enough money to fix air conditioners.  What can the school district do without third party for profit companies doing it for them?

This is the Attorney General of the United States, AG Merrick Garland.  Was it a good idea to use a letter from the National School Board Association (NSBA) as the reason to send a not so subtle message to moms and dads (that we felt was a threat to watch our mouths) because the FBI was on the case?!

When did it become OK for a school district to programmatically nose itself into a student’s personal thoughts and feelings while attempting to silence parents who disagree?  The U.S. government has no business in local education.  Parents are NOT “domestic terrorists” for speaking up against poorly managed and out-of-control school districts with board members acting like dictators over their fiefdoms.

It appears that thanks to actions of the NSBA and AG Merrick Garland, we now have a teacher calling parents domestic terrorists.  And by the way, it’s too late to retract your statement or apologize because your message was received:

But why do Florida school districts have so much power? The home rule powers given to school districts might be the answer.  Local elections are very important and should not be overlooked.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) surveys have nothing to do with the job of public schools: teaching math, language arts, sciences, and U.S. history (check out the price on that book and compare to the prices on the books the district purchases).

Will the school district respond to a records request for a copy of the Panorama Survey? After all, they have refused for over a year to fulfill a request for data dictionaries on all the EdTech companies they use.  That is like asking for the list of all the stuff these companies can possibly collect on your kids.

Private for-profit companies should not be designing surveys that collect our children’s personal beliefs, thoughts, or feelings. Parents are being pushed aside like they don’t matter.

Can’t wait for a copy!


P.S. If that wasn’t enough to peruse here is some extra reading on school surveys in Florida:

Next we will find out they’ve been surveying our kids on risky (wink wink) habits, asking them about activities many would not think of doing. Oh no, turns out schools already do that too!

The latest survey is linked from the Florida Department of Health.  The questions cover sex, drugs, etc. It is pretty disgusting to give this to a child; is it possible that shoving nearly 90 questions about risky behavior in front of the innocent teens might make a child wonder: if they are asking these questions, then kids do this stuff, if kids do this stuff then am I different and should I try this stuff like my peers?  Here we are again, gotta get that data!  Next thing they’ll be asking to track your kids too!

Here is another Florida Department of Health linked 2019 risky behavior survey linked for middle schools, and another middle and high school survey called the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS).

1 The Dec 15, 2020 School Board Meeting Attachment includes the following language:

“Panorama SEL Survey: New district-wide tool to gather data to support student SEL needs. Available to all district leaders, schools, and teachers to explicitly teach SEL skills and embed SEL strategies with academics.”

2 The August 12, 2021 School Board Meeting attached statement of work with Panorama.

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A Florida Controversy over Intelligence-Led Policing or is it Childhood Social Credit Scoring?

A model is described where children are scored for having been a victim of emotional or physical abuse—a score that increases the chance they will be identified and targeted by deputies; twice victimized.

One Florida county has created its own version of Chinese Social Credit Scoring—a rating system for American children.  Florida government agencies collect data on children such as abuse histories, intelligence, grades, GPA, health information, attendance records, etc.  Then a local government agency uses its data in a scoring model to identify, target, and reportedly harass its young citizens.  

The Pasco County Florida Sheriff’s Office intelligence-led policing (ILP) manual explains how they identify youth at-risk of falling into a “life of crime”.  A model is described where children are scored for having been a victim of emotional or physical abuse—a score that increases the chance they will be identified and targeted by deputies; twice victimized.  This sounds eerily like the dystopian Chinese Social Credit Scoring (SCS) system.  

Who is in This Law Enforcement System?

Children who are not “at risk” appear to have their identity fed into a law-enforcement system.  The ILP manual states:

“…we take the active rosters for each school in the county and match each student with data from the schoolboard’s early warning system (EWS), our records management system (RMS), and DCF’s Florida Safe Families Network (FSFN). Students who are on-track across all categories are removed from the analysis” [emphasis added]

If a student is not at risk is their data still fed into a law-enforcement database, and then only removed from the analysis? Does the “on track” child’s identity remain in a law-enforcement system? Does this mean every child in that public school system has a profile with law enforcement? Continue reading

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FortifyFL: Florida’s Misguided Communist-Style Student Reporting Tool

In 2018 Florida passed legislation requiring the rollout of a reporting app called FortifyFL.  This software was developed by AppArmor, a Canadian company.  The app promotes communist-style snitching on your neighbor but in this case students on students.  In communist Cuba and the former East Germany (DDR), reporting on your neighbor for activities like “participating in opposition movements” was encouraged and used against citizens.  

There is no way to know how data submitted about your children in FortifyFL or other Education Technology (EdTech) apps at school will be put to use by BigTech or authorities now or in the future.  The data entered into student reporting apps can be very personal and private.  This app can record what someone else claims you said.  “Your” words are stored in an online system and disseminated, without you ever knowing. 

The possibilities stemming from the collection of data are abundant, as evidenced in this report about children being harassed in Pasco County, FL.  The Sheriff’s Office claimed “its program was designed to reduce bias in policing by using objective data”.  Was there a statistically significant reduction in bias? How was bias defined? Does harassment qualify as bias?

In a Spiegel International article from 2015, the un-neighborly reporting that occurred in East Germany is discussed:

“No matter where one shared information, the state would put it to use. The East German reporting system kept track of the country’s citizens from kindergarten, throughout their working lives and even into retirement…Files were even kept on schoolchildren: “Wears Western clothes,” “exhibits affinity for punk music,” “demonstrates pacifist attitudes.”, and

“…they were totally normal citizens of East Germany who betrayed others: neighbors reporting on neighbors, schoolchildren informing on classmates, university students passing along information on other students, managers spying on employees…”

The East German reporting system sounds eerily like a combination of FortifyFL and Florida’s integrated database that collects and stores student (and family) data from multiple sources.  Many EdTech products, like the Canvas software, aim to store student data from kindergarten through post-graduate education.  If that isn’t enough, then companies track their employees with monitoring and surveillance software. 

Where does this end—in an Orwellian state, a Stasi-like state?

The Spiegel International article explains that many East Germans who felt their lives had been “de-railed” later learned that documents from factories and universities revealed that “making an ill-considered comment at the student union” or even simply lacking certain viewpoints could lead to one’s removal from university.    

This kind of report on your neighbor’s activity can be subjective, and officials encouraging its use might mislead the public into believing they are contributing to the good of society.  Reporting unverified suspicions into systems that can permanently document your behaviors, actions, beliefs, or hasty statements can get out of hand; as evidenced by Continue reading

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