Parents Should Opt-Out of SEL To Protect Their Children

Parents should opt their children out of social-emotional learning because the data collected can be used to target “dissident” children, and the platforms that support such surveys are not secure.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is often marketed to parents as a holistic approach to ensure their children’s academic success and nurture their emotional and social development.  But data collected from SEL can be used to monitor and identify students whose viewpoints may not align with the social justice agenda advocated by their school district.

Parents also need to know if these surveys will be used to develop a “social credit score” regarding their children. 

Schools today default to requiring parents to opt out rather than opt in, to maximize participation in such programs and surveys. The practice can leave inattentive parents unaware of such activities and their intended use.  

Panorama Education is a third-party service provider that provides cloud services to school districts nationwide to disseminate, collect, retain, and analyze data from SEL surveys. The data Panorama collects assists school officials in developing and tracking indicators that can be used to support interventions to influence and reinforce messages targeted at young, impressionable minds.  

The power of suggestion should not be underestimated. 

State school boards in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, and elsewhere are revising history and social studies curriculums to shift the emphasis from being a “good” citizen to a ‘”responsible” citizen, with all the fraught wokeness that distinction implies. 

By definition, “responsible” citizenry carries a call to activism with which parents and students might not agree, and that detracts from the classroom environment. 

Such proposals may sound noble. But when incorporated into the curriculum would require students, for example, to affirm, not merely accept, a student’s gender identity, an identity that may be fluid and unsupported by a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. 

But gender identity is not the only issue at stake. 

Within the Panorama survey communication toolkit, school districts can create customizable reports and indicators to monitor, track, and intervene in student behavior that contradicts the values school administrators are trying to instill. 

This is a clear infringement of parental rights, especially when school districts allow students to take absences from school to participate in protests on issues framed by educators. 

But even for parents who have no problem with woke indoctrination, SEL surveys pose a risk: exposing students’ personally identifiable information and analyzing the information gleaned from the surveys. 

Many parents do not realize that most school districts rely on vendors whose third-party servers they do not own or control. 

Third-party assessors do not verify cloud providers supporting school districts, and the service level agreements (agreements between the cloud provider and the cloud customer on the level of support the customer will receive) might not address important security details such as multi-tenancy, log retention, data deletion, data portability, or even address physical security of the servers. 

Panorama, on its company website, alludes to its adherence to the Risk Management Framework used by the intelligence community, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies — but also acknowledges the potential of a data breach. 

For a cloud provider, such an assertion is unacceptable as most consider a data breach an extinction level event.

Vendors such as Panorama do not have to achieve a FEDRAMP authority — a designation many commercial providers achieve to do business with the federal government to support school districts. 

Furthermore, they do not promulgate what is known as SOC reports, which articulate which controls they have implemented and their assessed effectiveness. These providers should, at a minimum, have their security assessed by a competent third party.

Due to their newness, SEL programs have thus far failed to demonstrate the return on investment in enriching and supporting students. The risks posed by their data collection methods and practices far outweigh the benefits. 

These programs must be audited to ensure that the technical controls implemented will protect sensitive personal information. 

And transparent policies must be in place to prevent the usage of such platforms from manipulating children socially. 

Parents conscious of their children’s privacy should not sell them out to SEL.

Dr. Harry Jackson is a retired naval officer,, former President of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Parent Teacher Student Association, and member of the Independent Women’s Network.