ST. LOUIS — Local schools are sorting through subpoenas issued by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Schmitt, a candidate for Missouri's open U.S. Senate seat, is pushing seven school districts across the state to explain why they handed out student surveys he claims were "invasive."
Mehlville School District and Webster Groves School District in the St. Louis area received subpoenas.
Jefferson City, Lee’s Summit R-7, Park Hill, Springfield and Neosho school districts have all been subpoenaed by the state attorney general’s office as well.
The subpoenas request information on the school districts’ decisions to employ student surveys the AG alleges were made by third parties.
Schmitt claimed the surveys asked students to disclose political beliefs, parents' income levels, and included questions about race, gender and sexuality.
In a statement sent by his office, he said the surveys “do nothing to further our children’s education.” Schmitt said the surveys could have potentially been given without parental consent.
"My office is going to get to the bottom of how much schools have paid these 3rd party consultants, how many students were required to complete these surveys, and if schools asked for parental permission. In short, we’re going to put a stop to these divisive surveys once and for all," Schmitt said in a video statement posted on Twitter Wednesday.
In a letter to parents, Mehlville Superintendent Chris Gaines said the district does not ask students about their or their family's "political beliefs nor do they include questions about sexuality or religious affiliation." The letter provided a link for parents to view the surveys by logging into the parent portal.
The full letter is as follows:
Dear Mehlville School District families,
As you may now be aware, this week, we received a subpoena from the Missouri Attorney General. While we are working with our attorneys on our response to the Attorney General, I wanted to share some important information with you.
The Attorney General has accused us of using student surveys that ask invasive questions about political views, income, sexuality and religion. He specifically names surveys created by Panorama Education and Project Wayfinder.
Mehlville School District does not use surveys from Project Wayfinder.
We currently use surveys from Panorama to benchmark social emotional learning, student and staff well-being and sense of belonging. Students in grades 3 and up, and our staff take Panorama surveys once a semester. Our Panorama surveys do not ask students about their or their families political beliefs nor do they include questions about sexuality or religious affiliation. The questions we ask students are attached to this post.
We know students do better academically when they feel like they belong in our school communities and when they have the tools and support to manage their emotions. Just like we check in with students on their learning related to math and reading, Panorama helps our staff identify areas where students may need support and areas where we can improve our school cultures. They also provide a playbook of strategies to help us improve in these areas.
While the majority of our staff are on summer break, I encourage you to reach out to your child’s teacher when we return to school in August if you have any questions about Panorama surveys. You can also leave a comment here in ParentSquare (they are only seen by me and our student services and communications staff), and someone will respond to you sooner.
Chris Gaines, Ed.D.
5 On Your Side also contacted the Webster Groves School District. As of 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Webster Groves did not yet have a comment from its superintendent.