One parent in North Carolina, motivated by her child’s question about a sexual identity term, set about on a long journey of discovery, which lawmakers and school officials should all listen to if they really care about educating our children. This Mom asked one question of her child’s Principal, and her quest then turned into a 6-month long battle to get one answer. Along the way, what she discovered should be of concern for all officials and lawmakers- because parents’ rights are being thrown away. It should be concerning to all school employees as well because schools are now not respected as they once were.
“Mom what does non binary mean?” a young boy asked his Mom at the dinner table, telling her he learned about it in called a “quiz” at Hollygrove Middle School.
Part One-The Problem:
American Public Schools are causing conflict in society because they claim that parents, who don’t opt-out, give them implied consent on controversial topics like sexual identity, racism, and politics. At the same time, schools systems are bypassing parents’ ability to consent or opt-out of highly divisive teachings by making doing so- almost impossible to do so.
What are the names of the many different tests and when are they given? That is the almost impossible question for school staff at Hollygrove Middle School. No one quite understands why.
In this investigation, you will see the conflict between one parent trying to protect her children and school officials trying to protect their jobs. Officials are either ill-informed of the process on how to deal properly with concerned parents’ questions, or quite frankly they are just being disrespectful of parents’ rights and are at odds with parents. More investigation is needed.
After getting the run around from school officials, some parents, such as Kathryn Stamou of Wake Co. North Carolina fears that if they do not oppose surveys, questionnaires, screeners, tests, or curriculum, their children will automatically be given materials they don’t want their children to have. Parents are growing more afraid that school officials, who they trust with their children, do not care about the authority of parents- and in Stamou’s case- they would be right.
In this same middle school, as Stamou’s child attends, I have reports of children answering questions on surveys or screeners- either as a joke or unaware that the test was serious because the topics were hard to understand. I have reports of children being taken out of class and questioned further about answers they submitted to surveys. I have reports of children being mocked and humiliated for being removed from the area while other children took the surveys. This is unacceptable in and inhumane treatment of American school children. We know that the definition of “child abuse” is debasing the pride of a child. Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being. We need everyone who works around children to understand this and take it seriously.
Part Two- The Run Around:
After her child raised a question about what a term meant that he found in what he called an online “quiz’, Stamou contacted the school about what kind of test would ask such a question. Her child’s teacher said she didn’t know anything about the test itself but could send a link for the survey to her child’s computer.
Her child was home sick the next day when the link was put into her child’s portal. That was the first time Stamou used her child’s computer to look at the test, as covered in this article, and she took the opportunity to look at the books he had access to, as covered in part in this article.
She then sent an email to her child’s Principal that said she did not want her child taking those surveys anymore, and she asked how she could opt him out of those surveys in the future.
Because she didn’t get an answer to that but was asked about which survey she meant, she asked about how many surveys there were.
Because she didn’t get an answer to how many surveys there were, and got redirected again by saying there was a “special way” to opt-out. Stamou asked why she wasn’t getting an answer about the “Special Way”. Stamou was met with silence, and misdirection by the Principal, either because the Principal was ill-informed by her higher-ups and didn’t know what to say, or because the Principal was hiding something.
It has taken Stamou 6 months of emails between the Principal of Hollygrove Middle School, and other teachers to find out how to opt out of the survey she asked about.
On the day before this article was published, Stamou received an email from the Principal, who appeared to finally relent:
- We have not given any screeners or surveys this year. We will be conducting a screener for students in the spring. Here is information from WCPSS regarding the BIMAS which includes an opt out letter that we will send home before we administer it.
- Your communication to me to opt your student out of surveys was the process for opting out of any surveys for your student that may be conducted at school. I have notified his teachers of this opt out.
- The information you are requesting about lessons/surveys discussed at Open House can be found on our HGMS Healthful Living website which outlines the topics shared by grade level. Teachers send Remind Messages to parents with directions to access this information prior to it being taught.
The answer she was finally given, was that the email between the two of them was the opt-out, and there was a link to sign up for opt-out.
BUT WAIT-IT DIDN’T WORK
However, when Stamou followed the link it took her to a Healthful Living page- where the only link she found anything near an opt-out was “permissions” which went to- Google Classroom, where she needed a code that she has not been given – and where the school already knew she could not access it because something technical appears to be preventing her from easily accessing Google Classroom.
— Kari Baxter Donovan (@Saorsa1776) November 6, 2021
I can only surmise that access to information about her child appears to have been denied to Stamou, based upon her desire, in July, to opt her son out of controversial surveys and possibly for her involvement with myself, who is writing articles about the school.
I, too, contacted Wake County communications on this Principal, and other Principals and have written many articles on the district. I was also denied an answer about a complete list and the timing of all tests, surveys, and questionnaires.
I have interviewed Stamou extensively and attempted to advocate for her to get her some answers to her simple question of how to opt her child out of what she feels is harmful surveys. Unfortunately, our interactions took on further complexity as the two of us attempted to get- just that one simple question answered. I will reveal more about the other issues in subsequent articles.
The Frustration in three parts:
ONE: I saw a lot of nebulous bureaucratic back and forth, where school officials appeared to be covering up information to prevent Stamou from getting a solid answer on how to opt her child out, as seen in a confusing and long email chain over six months period.
Emails show the Principal giving confusing information about the process of removing children from the surveys- to multiple people, diverting attention, and refusing to answer outright. We have copies of the conflicting messaging.
We have evidence of other teachers who emailed Stamou, claiming they were told the child had been opted out of something, with the teacher confusing the issue of “opt out” more by asking Stamou what the child was exactly opted out OF, and whether the student was opted out of “in house surveys” as well.
At no time were either of us given a list of the surveys, questionnaires or screeners- to know what to call them.
Numerous times, in writing Stamou replied that she wanted opt out of “All surveys, questionnaires and screeners, both from the school and from outside of the school”.
Stamou reported to me that there were attempts by another teacher and by the Principal to talk to her while she was in the carpool lane, to get her on the phone, or to get her into google to talk, each time she asked to communicate in writing, having lost trust in the Principal.
TWO: This investigation will also show that the school’s private Digital Management Systems, in this case, Destiny Discover and Google Classroom, are difficult to navigate and full of controversial materials which should require parental consent to distribute to minor children. Stamou also asked to have access to see her child’s classroom materials, because she became suspicious of, and started to believe was being taught- so students can take the test or surveys, or screeners. Stamou wanted to see the material for herself.
Sept 13- Email to Stamou, after asking each teacher for help getting access to information on materials in Google Classroom, from Teacher: “With accepting the invitation for one class you should be able to see all classes. It is showing you as invited on my end, and that you haven’t accepted the invitation. I have CC’d [Another teacher] so he can invite you as well, and see if that works.
Result: Nothing. Stamou is still not able to access her child’s Google classroom.
What she saw in Destiny Discover, through her child’s portal on his school-owned laptop is concerning to her. These are the topics that she does not want her child to be tested on.
Evidence: These are some of the materials her child’s confirmed are used in class, that would directly teach to the surveys, screeners, and questioners that she wanted him opted out of.
THREE: Also, and most surprising, after receiving the run-around from the school, Stamou was led on an information-getting journey, looking for what kinds of tests here child was being given- and discovered something very shocking- that schools may well be covering up if they are even aware of the conflict that Stamou uncovered. Perhaps it is nothing at all to be alarmed at, but the Frustration she faced, from not getting answers led to worry even more, and dig even more- and question even more.
That is what Moms do- can we be honest?
The way this Mom was treated, begs the question, are school staff ill-informed, or are they hiding something to protect their jobs?
Our findings lead to more questions:
HOW IS IT RIGHT TO TREAT PARENTS AND TAXPAYERS THIS WAY?
Stamou found that students have access to controversial books without any parent consent, that the school owns the computers children must use, so all of their data is stored in a public computer. In addition, parents’ access to Google Classroom, where they are supposed to be able to track a student’s classroom life- makes parent guardianship of students very difficult, confusing, time-consuming, and frustrating.
ARE THESE TESTS BEING GIVEN LEGALLY TO MINOR CHILDREN? ARE WE DOING OUR DUE DILIGENCE?
She also discovered that a medical level is needed to purchase one of the tests, so now Stamou wants to know if someone needs a medical degree to purchase the tests, why don’t they need the same level of medical background to distribute, proctor, or even read around the same test.
And where does that data go? Who is looking at it, and does that person have the proper medical background.
Evidence: In the email- The Principal finally, on the last day, called out a test called ‘BIMAS’
And there is a Red Flag: According to this website there could be a problem here. Stamou asked about how to opt out of a survey that was dropped into her child’s portal. She was never given a name. What test survey or screener is the Principal now referring to? THIS TEST NEEDS SOMEONE WITH A BACKGROUND IN HEALTH TO BUY THE TEST.
MA (psychologist, SLP, OT)
A master’s degree (MA, MS, MSW, CAGS) in psychology, school counseling, occupational therapy, speech–language pathology, social work, education, special education, or related field
All products except advanced psychiatric instruments and advanced neuropsychological instruments BA (occupational therapist) A bachelor’s degree (BA, BS) in the field listed above
License or certification from an agency/organization that requires training and experience in assessment
These tests can not be just loaded up into a portal and left for anyone to see. Why did it take so much for this Mom to get that answer?
TEACHERS WANT PAY THAT BUSINESS PROFESSIONALS GET- BUT ACT UNPROFESSIONALLY, IS THAT OK?
Schools want to do everything digitally, but- as I witnessed- answer parents’ questions, or provide opt-out information on any of the controversial materials as seen in our investigation of an 80 question “survey” by survey monkey, which was highly sexual and political. We were never told what the name of that test is, or of any other tests. We were not told when any tests, surveys or screeners were given.
All we got was the runaround, with people adding different terms, misdirecting conversations, or a total breakdown in communication.
There isn’t just a page somewhere that lists all of the tests, what they are called, what they are used for, who is given the data from the children’s answers- and when they are given?
There is a lack of transparency Stamou never got her to answer about where the data from the questions were being sent and who used the data about sexual identity and political makeup of the student’s home.
After six months, she did get an answer to the “opt out,” which was that the “Email” with the Principal was the opt-out, but that was not logged at any site or given any sort of weight, other than the Principal’s one statement. This is terrible customer service.
WHAT ARE PARENTS’ RIGHTS IN NORTH CAROLINA?
Stamou told me:
“There is a lack of trust from the schools that we don’t know how to raise out children and that we won’t present these ideas to our children, so it feel like the schools are hiding information about what they are doing to our children’s minds and to their data, which we don’t understand. Who is getting that information, and is it something that will later come back to hurt them?” Stamou told me.
“And I have no trust in them after being sent around so much to get my information. They answer with a question or try to talk to me off the record, and now I just want everything in writing,” she said.
“There is a lack of professionalism because I am finally passed a link, and when I go to the link, I can scroll all over, and I still can’t find what I am looking for, or it takes me to another page, where I need a code to access what I am told is there- and I don’t have the codes,” she added.
WHAT IS UP WITH GOOGLE CLASSROOM? AND CAN PRINCIPALS PICK AND CHOOSE WHO GETS ACCESS?
According to the Mom, there has been no instruction on how to use Google Classroom, and it has been mentioned that she needs “Google Tech,” but that has not come to fruition as of this date.
UNDER PROJECT SAFE CHILDHOOD-ARE THERE ANY CONFLICTS WITH DISSEMINATING MEDICAL SURVEYS AND SEXUAL CONTENT TO MINORS ONLINE AGAINST PARENTS’ WILL AND WITHOUT PROPER MEDICAL BACKGROUND?
School officials who want to be seen as professional, and also who want to advocate for children- should care about this mistreatment of a concerned parent. All lawmakers should be worried about whether we are in compliance with child safety laws.
This Mom started with a simple question, and when she did not get an answer, she dug in even more to find the answers herself. That led to more questions. Now she believes the state of North Carolina, and the schools specifically are not letting her protect the pride, the worth and the dignity of her child, and she is not alone.