by James A. Bacon
Disturbed by a “spike” in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members across the country, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has called on the FBI to use its “authority and resources” to discourage and prosecute “the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel,” reports The Daily Caller.
Meanwhile, in the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up department, it turns out that Garland’s daughter Rebecca is married to entrepreneur Xan Tanner, cofounder of Panorama Education, which has built a booming national business with school boards collecting data on students. So reports Asra Q. Nomani, vice president of strategy and investigations for Parents Defending Education, in her Substack column, “Asra Investigates.”
Not just any old kind of data. Panorama Education surveys students on such questions as, “How confident are you that students at your school can have honest conversations with each other about race?” Or “Do you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, aromantic / asexual, or questioning?”
It is precisely this kind of highlighting of “woke” issues regarding race and gender that has parents up in arms in the first place.
Garland, contends Nomani, has a conflict of interest. She writes: “Panorama Education will profit from Garland’s outrageous silencing of parents who are challenging its data mining of K-12 students.”
I’m less concerned about Panorama Education making a profit than I am by the fact that Fairfax County Public Schools is data mining its students’ attitudes and state of mind — and, apparently, keeping parents in the dark.
It gets worse. Enter Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. It’ll let Asra’s post take it from here.
In early September, a parent tipped us off at Parents Defending Education, an advocacy group, that Fairfax County Public Schools had quietly signed a $1.8 million contract with Panorama Education, a Boston-based Big Tech contractor, to conduct a multi-year “social and emotional learning screener,” giving them the right to collect “psychometrics” on the school district’s 180,000 students with invasive questions such as whether they feel “sad” or “gender fluid.”
Panorama Education staff gets status as “school officials” so they have the right to private student data under federal law, according to an email from a Fairfax County school district official.
This is federal law that Garland would have to enforce and Big Tech is now circumventing.
Deborah E. Scott, director of intervention and prevention services at Fairfax County Public Schools, wrote in the email: “FCPS is permitted under the law to share student data with outside vendors who meet the criteria of the ‘school official’ exception under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (“FERPA”). Third-parties who are considered ‘school officials’ are permitted to receive student data absent parent consent.”
Absent parent consent.
Why does it matter? Facebook founder Zuckerberg is an investor in Panorama Education, which is signing contracts with school boards across the country that are providing the company a backdoor to children’s most intimate feelings. The company is now a Trojan horse for Big Tech in K-12 schools. A whistleblower yesterday testified in Congress that Zuckerberg has been exploiting new “growth projects.”
K-12 education is clearly one of those “growth projects.”
Under fire for negatively harming the mental health of children, Zuckerberg and Garland’s family are now in the business of data mining children’s most intimate emotions — and supposedly help children deal with the mental health issues Zuckerberg helped manifest.
Big Tech is now involved in the data mining the minds of America’s kids — with the blessing of school boards.
Neither Panorama Education nor Fairfax County Public Schools responded to Nomani’s request for comment.
Bacon’s bottom line: This has the potential to become a national story (if the national media don’t bury it). But it is a Virginia story, too. Fairfax County has signed a $1.8 million contract with Panorama Education to conduct a multi-year “social and emotional learning screener,” probing intimate issues of race, gender and emotional condition. To what purpose? It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the purpose is to advance its social-justice agenda. George Orwell was an amateur.
It’s time for parents to demand transparency. Let’s see the contract and find out what Fairfax school officials hope to accomplish. I’m confident that Asra will have answers soon. But hold your temper — the FBI (or Big Brother, take your pick) might be watching.