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School District Keeps Parents From Seeing Student Survey Questions

Onslow County school board says they entered into a contract with a survey vendor requiring them to keep survey questions a secret.

By: Sloan Rachmuth

Parents in Onslow County are frustrated after learning they cannot preview the surveys their children will receive at school. Officials told Onslow Virtual High School parents that the school board’s agreement with education company Cognia prohibited the district from sharing the survey.

Angie Todd, School Board Candidate Onslow Country Board of Education

“It is incredibly deceitful for school board members to have entered into a contract for these surveys knowing that parents wouldn’t be allowed to see the questions ahead of time,” said parent and school board candidate Angie Todd. “My understanding of the law is that parents have the right to see copies of the surveys given ahead of time. Parents have the right to know about the data collected on children especially because we have learned that these surveys often ask deeply personal questions”

Parental opt-out of surveys is a right under Onslow school board policy, and it is consistent with state and federal regulations. Parents can also access anything generated or received by officials and employees in the course of conducting public business under the North Carolina public records law.

If challenged legally, Onslow Schools' claim that the contract with Cognia exempts them from them from having to produce copies of surveys could prove problematic.

According to schools, these student surveys allow students to voice their concerns, needs, and desires, providing feedback on how teachers can improve their instruction to help students succeed.

However the private information of students that is being exploited through school surveys is startling. Surveys in Richmond county schools ask sixth graders questions about how their parents discipline them and if they do crack cocaine. Last year, state-wide surveys asked students as young as eleven if they have done heroin or crack cocaine, if they have had sex, if they discuss sex with parents and how fast they could get and be ready to fire a loaded gun without parental consent.

Cognia (formerly AdvancED) describes itself as the world’s largest education community, serving more than 30,000 public and private schools and districts across the United States and in more than 70 countries that educate over 16 million students. Cognia surveys are in use in other North Carolina districts. In Forsyth County, Cognia surveys are a key part of its “diversity, equity and inclusion program,” in other words, its applied Critical Race Theory programming. Cognia Culture and Climate Surveys are also in use in Greenville county schools.

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