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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