Discover more from The Millstone
Creepy Panorama Survey Ended
This is a move in the right direction
At the March 8 board meeting, the board voted 4-3 to end the district’s involvement with Panorama surveys. This is great news! I wrote about these surveys previously, providing several reasons to be concerned about them. But there is really one main reason:
The Surveys were not Anonymous
The district lied about this, saying that
Student responses to the survey items are anonymous.
The fact is that, when your student answers the survey questions, the answers are grouped together and your student is assigned a score for that group of questions. That’s not anonymity by any reasonable standard.
Here’s what it looks like (this is a screen grab from a Panorama promotional video):
One of the categories is “equity and inclusion” (again, see here), so your child will be labeled as weak on this topic if he or she gives the “wrong” answers. I assume that when you get a low score, there is some attempt to intervene. Is there a “targeted intervention” if your kid gets a low “equity and inclusion” score? I’d ask, but I don’t trust the administration to answer truthfully.
Moreover, on a previous version of Panorama’s website, they admitted that personal information may be shared with third parties anytime they think it is necessary:
When necessary, we share limited information with other organizations so that they can help us provide our Services.
In addition, Panorama also said:
We can’t predict the future, and there’s a chance that our company’s ownership might change—for example through a merger or an acquisition. In that event, information may be transferred as permitted by law and/or contract, provided that the receiving entity, like Panorama, does not sell or rent information for marketing purposes.
This is the kind of ridiculousness that resulted in a landslide victory for conservative board members in November. We want a focus on academics, not leftist political activism and social engineering. And we don’t want “equity and inclusion” scores assigned to kids and held for undisclosed purposes by some creepy left-wing organization.
Arguments from the Other Side
Despite these points, we now have a small group of people arguing that cancelling these surveys was a bad idea. Let’s have a look at their unimpressive arguments.
Argument 1: this is fiscally irresponsible because we already paid for the surveys.
When you waste a lot of money on some poison Kool-Aid, you should not drink it just to justify the expenditure. Rather, you should write off the loss as a foolish decision and safely dispose of the poison. You should also blame those who paid for the poison, not those who rectify the situation.
Argument 2: the surveys are required for the DoE “school improvement plan” and the board therefore now be in trouble with the DoE.
The surveys are not required. The school district is required to submit an improvement plan to DoE each year. But the template on the DoE site explicitly states that while surveys are one permissible source of data, they “are not required” and it lists many other potential data sources. HSE didn’t have these surveys a few short years ago and somehow managed to meet DoE requirements. They can do it again.
Argument 3: parents who didn’t like the surveys could opt out of them; only a small number of people opted out, so nobody had a problem with the surveys.
This is a terrible argument. How many parents would opt into the surveys if they required permission? The answer, as I think we all know, is that very few parents would opt into them. Especially if the district would stop lying to parents and let them know that the surveys involve assigning political labels to their children. I think that what we can infer from parents not opting out of the surveys is that most parents aren’t aware of the situation, they don’t like paperwork, or they have been deceived by the administration.
Argument 4: Panorama was an information item on the board’s meeting agenda and it was not an action item, so deciding to vote on the matter was a lack of transparency that prevented public comments.
I doubt that those who offer this argument are sincere. The “mental health” grant from the last board meeting was a mere information item, and yet dozens of people showed up to comment. People know that Panorama has been a controversial issue, and if they wanted to talk to the board about it, they could have. So this argument looks like sour grapes.
Ignore the Haters
Social media is toxic. At the time of my writing this, there are about 194 comments on Board Member Juanita Albright’s Facebook post on this topic. At first glance, it can look like a big mob of people are outraged about her vote to end these surveys. But I decided to count how many people have made negative comments. Here’s what I see: 36 people have commented negatively. Of the negative comments, over half come from exactly six people.
Meanwhile, some 5,622 people voted for Dr. Albright and 20,508 voted for the four new board members, defeating their fringe-left-wing opponents by a huge margin: 57-39. The board, and this action in particular, are strongly supported by the community. Don’t let six people who spend too much time on social media convince you otherwise.
This massive support for our new board should be no surprise. The group that was soundly defeated in November is completely crazy. One of the people defeated in the election believes parents should be scrutinized by CPS if they do not react the way she prefers to news that their kid is changing pronouns. Another one thinks that books containing drawings of porn stars sitting on each other’s faces should be shelved in the section for eleven-year-old children at the public library. These are people who did nothing when it came to light that the district had lied to parents and kept secrets from them about the mental health of their own children. These are people who deserve to be ignored.
Dawn Lang Continues to Disappoint
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Board President Dawn Lang joined the two remaining left-wing members of the board in voting against discontinuing the surveys. I do not understand Ms. Lang’s calculation here. She evidently cares about not hurting the feelings of HSE administrators more than she cares about serving the 61% of voters who elected her. It’s very surprising.
Meanwhile, Ms. Lang continued to struggle with Robert’s Rules. Throughout the meeting she needed Board Member Suzanne Thomas to direct her. Ms. Lang also repeatedly allowed HSE administrators, who are not on the board, to speak out of turn when they were not asked for their input. She often seemed uncertain what to do next, or how the basic mechanics of motions, seconds, discussions, and votes work. In her remarks at the end of the evening, she even said that she “was willing to table” the discussion of Panorama because she was worried that ending Panorama would be hard on the administration. She also said:
…if we’re going to call people on the carpet for not following Robert’s Rules, the Robert’s Rules process as far as that was concerned did not allow me to voice that opinion prior to [a] vote being called and motions being made.
This is unbelievable. Suzanne Thomas made the motion to stop using Panorama. Ms. Lang was apparently unaware that she had every right to make her opinion known during discussion of this motion. She was also apparently unaware that she is permitted to introduce a motion to table the matter if that’s what she wants. These are not complicated points: they are the sort of thing you learn about Robert’s Rules with a few minutes on YouTube. Why would she want to be the President if she isn’t able to fulfill the role? Ms. Lang should allow Suzanne Thomas to take her place as President, since Suzanne is clearly more capable at handling parliamentary procedure.
In any case, congratulations to the board for making the right decision. They appear to be taking charge. Let’s hope this is the first of many changes to come. And meanwhile: