On September 1, 2021, the Board of Education of Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools voted to implement a new Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum from the organization Fly Five. On August 11, 2021, the Board of Education discussed implementing the SEL curriculum. In this meeting, an employee of the school district appeared to admit that the district did not know what material was in the curriculum: “Until you get your hands on any material and you implement it, you don’t really know how good it is.” [Time Stamp: 32:15]
Cleveland.com reported that the estimated cost of the Fly Five program would be $11,000 per year. The news outlet continued to report that the program was a “social-emotional learning curriculum designed to teach K-8 students five competencies that they need to be successful in and out of school.” These competencies “are cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy and self-control (CARES).”
Fly Five’s website promotes the “identity” of students in the organization’s SEL curriculum. Fly Five states: “Central to Fly Five is a cast of nine characters who, along with their families, represent a wide range of differences in race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical and/or mental capabilities, and religious beliefs.” The organization states that these characters “grow up within the curriculum, so students meet a developmentally-appropriate version of them in each grade span.”
In an article titled “Representation Across the School Community,” Fly Five promotes “culturally responsive classrooms.” The organization states that “educators particularly need to be aware of implicit bias and continue the work of dismantling inequities that exist in classroom settings.” The term “culturally responsive” is often used to describe a method of teaching that includes the race and ethnicity of students as part of the lessons taught in classrooms.
In another article titled “All People Deserve Respect, Safety, and Equal Opportunity,” Fly Five claims that there has been an “increase in racial stereotyping” and that “students of color are more likely to experience bias and bullying because of their race/ethnicity, language, or physical appearance.”
Fly Five also promotes a document titled “Empathy and Activism.” The organization asks in the document: “How can we as educators foster students who care about and fight for human rights? What SEL tools are at our disposal to instill in our students a consciousness about and sense of urgency for eradicating discrimination, oppression, and human rights violations?” The organization then outright states that the goal of its SEL curriculum is to turn young children into activists:
The core of discrimination is a fear of difference and an impairment of empathy, and it is empathy rather than reason that allows us to perceive other human beings as equal (Schultz, 2013). Thus, empathy can be a driving force for activism. Empathy is a precondition for the motivation to acknowledge and respect human rights (von Harbou, 2013), suggesting that the earlier we begin explicitly fostering empathy the stronger the foundation for developing students who strive to bridge divides, celebrate differences, and fight for equal rights in our society.
Fly Five then explains in the document that “as we generate empathic abilities in our students and create a culture of inclusion in our classrooms, we can also instill in students an activist mindset rooted in empathy.” The organization further explains that “we can show students that it is not enough to appreciate differences and feel with another person, but we must all take active steps toward ameliorating discrimination and oppression.”
As an example of using activism to teach, Fly Five mentions what the organization calls a “social justice educator.” Fly Five mentions how in a TEDTalk, a “social justice educator” professor “highlights the subtle racism in our standards for being considered ‘well-spoken’ and valuing one English dialect over another.”
In another document titled “Social Responsibility and Representation,” Fly Five states that educators should teach students how to “act for the benefit of society as a whole.” The organization explains:
In our increasingly interconnected world, it is important for schools to implement socially responsible best practices and teach socially responsible concepts. Social responsibility refers to an ethical framework in which individuals and organizations have an obligation to act for the benefit of society as a whole (Wittmann, 2018). When one behaves in a socially responsible way, they deliberately make choices that contribute to the welfare of society overall and abstain from behaving unethically (Planken, 2013).
Fly Five then states that “one way to foster social responsibility in students, as well as fulfill a socially responsible mission, is to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom.” The organization further states that “in nurturing a mindset that envisions each one of us as part of a greater whole, students improve their ability to show up as socially conscious, responsible individuals.”
Fly Five also has a document titled “The Top Funds to Purchase SEL Curriculum” that explains school districts can hire Fly Five using funding that they received from ESSER funds created by the federal government’s COVID-19 relief bills that were passed. The document states:
Local Education Agencies (LEAs) may use ESSER funds to purchase Fly Five curriculum to provide principals and other school leaders with the resources necessary to address the needs of their individual schools. This includes creating or expanding mental, behavioral, and social-emotional supports to address the needs of students and their families.
Fly Five also has a video titled “How Fly Five can support your school goals for promoting equity” that appeared to previously be a webinar. The host of the video mentions three goals for educators to understand in promoting equity [Time Stamp: 4:25]:
- Learn about and understand how SEL can be a lever for advancing educational equity.
- Discuss how representation matters in a research-based SEL curriculum.
- Learn about the research that shows how SEL leads to improving school districts and students’ academic experience.
At one point in the video, the host displays a slide that states “SEL is relevant for all students in all schools and affirms diverse cultures and backgrounds.” The slide then states:
All students bring to school their identities, strengths, values, lived experiences, and culture. SEL does not seek to have students conform to the values and preferences of the dominant culture but uplifts and promotes understanding of the assets of diverse individuals and communities. [Time Stamp: 18:20]
The host of the video also displays a slide that appears to discuss teaching students to be political activists. The slide states that “SEL is a way to uplift student voice and promote agency and civic engagement.” The slide then explains that SEL works best when it “positions young people ‘as experts in understanding and fashioning a world that is more just and equitable.'” [Time Stamp: 24:25]
Another slide in the video states that “SEL supports adults to strengthen practices that promote equity.” The slide then explains that “SEL also offers a way for adults to examine how their own social and emotional competencies and the policies and practices that they put in place may impact equity and acknowledge and address the larger impact that systemic and individual bias, racism, or oppression may have on the lives of their students.” [Time Stamp: 27:00]
Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools promotes a “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEIJ) committee” on its website. The school district states that “this committee engaged in an appreciative inquiry process to develop a vision and action plan for DEIJ in the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District.”
On September 2, 2021, Cleveland.com also reported that the school district’s Board of Education approved a $300 donation “to support and promote the DEIJ initiative.” The news outlet continued to report that “in June of last year, the board passed an anti-racism resolution that included a commitment to develop and implement a ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.'” The news outlet explained: “A DEIJ Task Force – a group of 90 community members, parents, students and staff – was subsequently formed. The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio was hired to help facilitate its work.” Cleveland.com further reported that the school district paid the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio $22,500 to help out with the district’s equity initiative.
The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio’s website promotes an initiative called “#ReThink.” On the “#ReThink” page, the organization states that “we are committed to rethinking the way people see race, age, religion, sex, ethnicity, culture, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.” The organization then explains that it achieves this “through youth programming, by promoting diversity and by addressing the issues currently happening in our world.”
The page then promotes several videos under the “#ReThink” initiative. In a video titled “ReThinkLables,” one student appears to attack her “conservative” parents. She states: “My family’s pretty intolerant and conservative. My mom told me one time that no one decent would ever love me if I continue to call myself pansexual.” [Time Stamp: 0:45]
The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio also offers a consultation service called “SHIFT Consulting.” With this consultation service, the organization states that “we focus on leadership and organizational development initiatives with a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) lens.” The organization explains:
We work with you to assess, identify, implement, and support your diversity, equity, and inclusion focused efforts. This includes many different types of engagement, ranging from the design and delivery of educational opportunities and workshops, to full service consultation services centered on operationalizing and integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into all levels and functions of the organization.
A few of the services that SHIFT Consulting offers include “culture and climate surveys,” “operationalizing values of diversity, equity and inclusion using Appreciative Inquiry,” “diversity council, employee resource and affinity group development and support,” “employee coaching,” and “restorative justice in organizational and community settings.” The consultation service also offers educators with “Leadership Development Workshops” that include topics such as “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace,” “Unconscious Bias and Micro-messages,” “Intersectionality,” and “A Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion.” The organization also promotes a “Racial Equity and Justice Workshop Series.”
The organization mentions that SHIFT Consulting also includes “high impact leadership development workshops and consultation services centered on specific identities and dimensions of diversity” that include “race and ethnicity,” “generational diversity,” “gender,” “LGBTQ,” “trans inclusion,” and “immigration.”
The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio’s website also has a page titled “Pronouns: A How-To.” The organization states that “actively choosing to not use the pronouns someone has shared that they go by is harassment and implies that intersex, transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people do not or should not exist.” The organization then states:
It’s important to note that we should never assume someone’s pronouns. While the majority of people may use ‘she/her’ or ‘he/him,’ we cannot always tell by looking at someone. Pronouns commonly have a gendered association, however, anyone of any gender can use any pronouns that fit for them. Everyone has pronouns, not just transgender, nonbinary, or intersex people. Keep in mind that some people may use more than one set of pronouns to refer to themselves (e.g., ‘she/her’ and ‘they/them’). In these instances, you can use either set when referring to this person.
The organization also discusses “misgendering and deadnaming.” The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio explains that “misgendering is when someone uses the wrong pronoun for another person.” The organization then explains that “deadnaming is when the wrong name (usually an old name) is used for someone” and that “this is often seen for individuals using the birth name of a transgender or non-binary person.” The organization further tries to provide alternative “gender inclusive language” for people to start using. This includes replacing the phrase “men and women” with “everyone,” “people of all genders,” “all people,” or “women, men, and nonbinary people.”
A concerned community member sent Parents Defending Education a contract that Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools agreed to with Panorama Education Inc. The contract starts in 2022 and extends through 2023. The school district is paying Panorama a total $22,395.84 for the company’s services. The contract includes an annual license for student surveys, teacher/staff surveys, family surveys, and community surveys. The contract also includes:
- Panorama Student Success Platform – $1,500
- Access to Panorama Student Success Platform and Support (as defined in the Terms and Conditions).
- Dashboards and reporting for teachers, student support staff, school administrators, and district administrators.
- Panorama’s social-emotional learning survey or screener for students.
- Includes survey administration, analysis, and reporting.
- Ongoing integration of Infinite Campus & standard filters into Student Success platform. Includes behavior, attendance, coursework, rosters, and demographics.
- Ongoing integration of AP, iReady, ACT/PSAT, and Ohio State Test into Student Success platform.
- Intervention tracking.
- Project Support – $2,750
- Named single Panorama point of contact who provides proactive technical support and guidance on Panorama’s best practices.
- Unlimited email support from Panorama’s product support team for school/district personnel and survey respondents (where applicable).
- Membership in the Panorama Community, including client-only training sessions and webinars, newsletters, etc.
The contract also “includes one virtual workshop from Panorama’s core offerings menu.” These virtual workshops “are group learning experiences, ideally for fewer than 50 participants.” These participants “engage in hands-on learning and discussion to build knowledge and skills that support professional practice.”
The contract provides the following breakdown of all the costs:
- 1 year student success renewal (March 3rd, 2022 – March 2nd, 2023) = $12,844
- 4 month student success extension (March 3rd, 2023 – June 30th, 2023) = $4,281
- 8 month surveys extension (November 9th, 2022 – June 30th, 2023) = $5,270.84
Panorama Education Inc. is known for helping schools throughout the country survey the race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity of students in an effort to push “equity and inclusion” in school systems. The organization offers an “Equity and Inclusion Survey” to “help schools and districts track the progress of equity initiatives through the lens of students and staff, identify areas for celebration and improvement, inform professional development, and signal the importance of equity and inclusion to the community.”