‘National School Counseling Week 2022’ reveals how K-12 schools increasingly try to get into children’s heads with activist agendas
Everyone cares about the wellbeing of children.
Unfortunately, the launch of “National School Counseling Week 2022” from Monday, February 7, through Friday, February 11, illustrates how a national network of consultants, companies, activists and education officials increasingly exploits concern about children’s wellbeing. The goal is to turn schools into the “de facto mental health provider in communities” and platforms for sexuality, gender and “anti-racism” indoctrination and activism, earning multimillion dollar contracts for gender and sexuality programs, “social and emotional learning screeners,” “anti-racism practices” and “equity initiatives.”
In some cases, addressing behavioral issues has become the entry point for controversial “restorative justice” programs that too often leave victims vulnerable and perpetrators free from accountability, in the name of “equity.”
American School Counselors Association
Based in Alexandria, Va.. the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) has developed extensive programs, resources and trainings promoting “anti-racism,” “social and emotional learning” and “equity.”
For example, among its “Advocacy Letters,” the association said it signed a June 2021 letter to U.S. congressional Appropriations Committee leaders “urging them to prioritize SEL in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill of at least $784 million.” It also signed a March 2021 statement with the National Association of School Psychologists and others to school leaders “urging them to prioritize equity in school reopenings.”
- Monday, Feb. 7, 2022 — Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 — The ASCA features a page on its website for “National School Counseling Week 2022,” from Monday, Feb. 7, 2020, through Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, with activities, resolutions and events, including a webinar on “anti-racism at school.”
- The website features a page, “Anti-Racism Resources,” with links to webinars on many issues with an activist agenda, including: “Social Justice and the ASCA National Model”; “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy,” a framework often used to bring divisive ideas from critical race theory into schools; and “Engage Staff on Issue of Race Through Book Study.” The page also promotes: “Anti-Racism Reading List from Ibram X. Kendi (author of “How to Be an Antiracist”).”
- Feb. 1, 2022 — The association promoted “Black Lives Matter at School” with a Facebook post, noting: “Consider incorporating books into classroom lessons this week as part of #BlackLivesMatteratSchool week of action.”
- Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, at 2 p.m., EST — The association plans a Facebook Live webinar called, “What Works: Anti-Racism at School.” It notes: “School counselors and other school staff have a long way to go when it comes to addressing racism, bias and disproportionality at school, according to recent ASCA research.” The moderator was scheduled to be Deirdra Hawkes, director of programs and advocacy at the association and its staff liaison to the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.” Also participating: a supervisor in School Counseling Services at embattled Loudoun County Public Schools, Va.
- In a position statement titled, “The School Counselor and Anti-Racism Practices,” the ASCA says, “Racism remains a part of society in the United States and exists throughout all of our institutions.”
- In a 10-page “Standards in Practice” report, “Eliminating Racism and Bias in Schools: The School Counselor’s Role,” the association stated that “all educators have an obligation to end racism and bias and to be an important part of the solution.” It said: “This means identifying gaps in achievement and opportunities, addressing disproportionate rates of discipline for students of color, eliminating the barriers to participation in AP classes and other rigorous coursework, and more.”
The American School Counselors Association has had a history of activism on issues of race, gender and sexuality.
- June 9, 2020 — Damien Sweeney, program coordinator for comprehensive school counseling in the Kentucky Department of Education, led a webinar for the school counselors’ association, entitled, “How School Counselors Can Address Race-Based Stress and Trauma.”
- October 2020 — The ASCA distributed a “state-of-the- profession” survey to nearly 75,000 members and nonmembers. It asked school counselors “how their schools or districts are supporting and promoting diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and access this year.”
- It later issued a report, “2020 State of the Profession,” that said: “More than one-third (36%) said their schools have taken no actions, although another one-third have required DEI training for all faculty.”
- The report also said: “Further, individual school counselors’ efforts to address racism and bias in their school counseling programs fail to go beyond the basics, the data shows. About 42% of school counselors said they are monitoring student behavior to identify racist behavior or speech, 38% are providing individual counseling and 35% are providing classroom lessons, according to the report. However, just 22% each are identifying and advocating to revise or remove policies that disproportionately affect students of color or using data to identify students who should be included in the most rigorous coursework.”
- March 1, 2021 — The ASCA published an article, “Racial Justice Starts at School.”
- September 2021 — The ASCA published a policy statement, “Critical Race Theory,” stating: “Despite the ongoing political debate, CRT is not a concept taught in K-12 education. However, a historical understanding of systemic racism is necessary as all educators, including school counselors, work to improve student outcomes, especially for marginalized students.”
- December 2021 — The ASCA said it distributed a survey about racism and bias in schools to a “random, name sample” of 6,000 members. t said the survey was “designed to gather details on school counselors’ and schools’ practices in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and addressing racism and bias.”
- January 2022 — The association released a report, “School Counselors Addressing Racism and Bias,” from its December 2021 survey, concluding: “The data reveals that many schools lack DEI curricula/programs (45%) and that, even when programs do exist, little headway is being made in addressing disproportionalities and improving students’ understanding of racism and bias.”
National Association of School Nurses
Based in Silver Spring, Md., the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) dedicates a page on its website to “LGBTQ Students” with guidance on helping students facing “rejection from family and friends.”
It states: “Barring an explicit legal obligation, school nurses should respect confidentiality and not disclose a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity to others, including parents or guardians, without permission from the student (Human Rights Campaign, 2019).”
It also states: “To increase the likelihood that LGBTQ students will feel safe and seek out the support they need, school nurses should display a visible sign of LGBTQ inclusion, such as a pride flag, safe space sticker, or poster in the health office (Human Rights Campaign, 2019).”
National Association of School Psychologists
Based in Bethesda, Md., the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) publishes a page on its website, headlined, “Gender Inclusive Schools: Counseling and Supporting Students and Families.”
The topics don’t cover traditional ideas of male and female gender inclusivity but provide answers to questions related to “transgender and gender-expansive students,” including:
- “How do I explain what transgender means to young students?”
- “Are there specific considerations to take into account when discussing a child’s gender identity with parents from varying cultural/religious backgrounds?”
- “What should I do if a parent is not supportive of a student’s gender expression or identity?”
- “What are best practice recommendations for working with persons on the autism spectrum who are gender-expansive and/or transgender?”
Another page covers, “Gender Inclusive Schools: Policy, Law, and Practice,” asking:
- “How can I help address concerns from parents/guardians related to transgender inclusive policies?”
- “What is the school climate like for transgender and gender-expansive students?”
Another page is entitled, “The Importance of Addressing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Schools.”
It includes “Social Justice Definitions,” including:
- “Gender and Sex,” covering “Genderqueer,” “Birth Assigned Sex,” “Heterosexism” and “Biphobia,” among other terms;
- “History and Theoretical Concepts,” such as “Critical Race Theory,” “Intersectionality,” “Lived Experience” and “Decolonization”;
- “Power, Prejudice, and Oppression,” including “Privilege,” Microaggression,” “Horizontal Oppression,” “Internalized Dominance” and “Systems of Power”;
- “Race and Racism,” such as “White Complicity,” “White Privilege,” “White Supremacy,” “Antiracism” and “Colorism.”
- The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, describes itself as a “trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning,” known as “SEL.” CASEL says it “supports educators and policy leaders and enhances the experiences and outcomes for all PreK-12 students.”
- CASEL published a video in 2020, titled, “SEL As a Lever for Equity and Social Justice.”
- In its history section on its website, the organization says, “Both CASEL and the term ‘social and emotional learning’ emerged from a meeting in 1994 hosted by the Fetzer Institute.”
- Since its creation in 2016, the Collaborating States Initiative “has scaled state-level SEL work from 8 states to over 40 states and one U.S. territory, representing more than 90% of districts, schools, teachers, and students in the US,” according to CASEL’s website.
- It offers to “build foundational support” for social and emotional learning and pitch administration on social and emotional learning, as well as guides for implementation.
- On Feb. 25, 2019, Dena Simmons registered LiberatED LLC with the Connecticut Secretary of State as a limited liability corporation, based in Waterbury, Connecticut. According to her website, Simmons established the company as a “collective focused on developing school-based resources at the intersection of social and emotional learning (SEL), racial justice, and healing.”
- A former assistant director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Simmons said she supported schools using “the power of emotions to create a more compassionate and just society.”
- Panorama Education Inc. is a national data company that says, “With a best-in-class data analytics platform, Panorama develops advanced technologies that empowers educators to foster improved social-emotional learning, school climate, and student engagement.”
- Panorama Education claims that it uses surveys 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.”
- Its services include: “Climate Survey,” “Learning Recovery Survey” and an “Early Warning System,” which promises to “proactively identify and support at-risk students.
Pulaski County Special School District
- On Aug. 10, 2021, the Pulaski County Special School District’s Board of Education agreed to work with Panorama Education Inc. to implement “social-emotional learning” in the district’s high schools.
- The school district’s Board of Education also agreed to work with QuaverEd to implement “social and emotional learning” with elementary students. QuaverEd is an organization that states that “we are committed to ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in all our resources.”
Moorpark Unified School District
- Moorpark Unified School District has a “Wellness Center” website that promotes “social and emotional learning.” This website promotes resources from a consultant, CASEL, including CASEL’s “roadmap” for reopening schools while promoting “racial equity.”
Simi Valley Unified School District
- The school district’s website has a page promoting “Social-Emotional Learning” and the school district’s partnership with Panorama to implement “social and emotional learning.” The school district explained that it issues a survey to students at the start of every school year with the help of Panorama: “Panorama Education gathers the data from the survey and provides us with that information so that we can best tailor programs and intervention services for our students.”
- Simi Valley Unified School District offers LGBTQ resources on its website that link to organizations like the Diversity Collective. The Diversity Collective offers resources for children as young as nine years old in a program called “Little Unicorns.” The organization’s website states that “Little Unicorns is for young LGBTQ+, Questioning, and Allies, ages 9-12.” It says it seeks to promote “mental and physical health” in the LGBTQ community in Ventura County, Calif.
Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation
Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation implements Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into the district’s school curriculum. The school district states that all “teachers and staff go through training on SEL.” The school district then adds that “SEL is not critical race theory.” However, the school district appears to work with firms that promote ideologies inspired by CRT.
On the same page, Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation links to the CASEL website to explain what SEL is. CASEL is known as an organization that promotes ideologies inspired by CRT through SEL training. CASEL published a video last year titled “SEL As a Lever for Equity and Social Justice.”
Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation
- On June 18, 2021, REAL News Michiana published an article titled Penn High School’s Critical Race Theory Curriculum, Lesson 1: Microaggressions. REAL News Michiana filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Penn High School which uncovered a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum and a lesson/slideshow on microaggressions. The microaggression slides are included in a section called, “Conflict Resolution: Dealing with and Eliminating Microaggressions.”
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
- The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System had announced that they would begin using controversial Panorama Education surveys for students and staff in the district.
Howard County Public School System
- A 3rd grade elementary school instructional team leader and “RAINBOW representative” in the Howard County Public School System sent an email to colleagues full of excitement about plans to “incorporate LGBTQ within our elementary curriculum.” She explicitly states that this would be integrated during SEL time. (SEL=social emotional learning)
- In winter 2020, Yvania Garcia-Pusateri, chief equity and diversity officer at Springfield Missouri Public Schools, led a presentation, “Senior Leadership Series – Equity & Access Winter 2020.” A presenter included Brian Vega, a counselor with an outside company, Counseling Solutions of the Ozarks LLC, based in Springfield, Missouri. According to his online profile, Vega’s specialties include: the “LGBTQ community,” “all couples needing relationship help, including open/non-monogamous/poly-amorous couples,” “individuals questioning/exploring their sense of gender and sexuality” and “ethnic, religious, and other minorities.”
- The presentation included a discussion of “The Gender Unicorn” and “polyamorous” relationships, one of the counselor’s specialties. The slide’s credit read “Graphic by TSER,” with the acronym in large font and its explanation in fine print, “Trans Student Educational Resources.”
Webster Groves School District
- On Jan. 28, 2021, Webster Groves School District published its equity policy. The school board then posted a detailed outline based on its policy titled, “Moving Towards Equity.” It stated, “In order to change the pattern of better serving certain groups of children, we must disrupt traditional beliefs, systems, structures, and practices which favor those privileged by race, economics, gender, etc.,” including specific actions. One action was: “The high school counselors will try to schedule students of color together in advanced track classes to create student support groups.”
South Middleton School District
- On Sept. 8, 2020, South Middleton School District hired school psychologist Amber Sessoms as a consultant. Her media kit sold one of her key products: “Liberatory Learning Experiences.” They included the program that South Middleton School District adopted: “Building Emotional Capacity for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI).”
- According to her LinkedIn bio, Sessoms began the consulting business in November 2019 while she was still a school psychologist at Central Dauphin School District. She left that position in March 2021, according to her official bio, after 12 years on the job, starting in 2008.
- On her website, Sessoms wrote, “I’d love to show you how courageous conversations can transform your organization.” On her Twitter handle @Nat_Inclination, Sessoms called herself a “Narrative Disruptor,” “Meaning Maker,” “Radical Connector” and 2020 Pennsylvania School Psychologist of the Year. In another biography on her Instagram account @National_Inclination, Sessoms added about her credentials, “She consults and advocates for equity and social-emotional learning, and she is a champion on equity and social justice across the Commonwealth.”
- Coventry Public Schools in Rhode Island have been using Panorama Education surveys for students in the third grade and up across the district. (Rhode Island is one of the states that contracted with Panorama Education statewide; an “annual climate survey” is given to students in every district.) Coventry Public Schools cite Panorama by name in their district strategic plan. That plan also states the district’s intent to increase Social Emotional Learning measures in the early learning environment for students across the board.
- The school district’s mental health website states that material from the organization Second Step is used for “social and emotional learning” when addressing students in elementary and middle school.
- Second Step states on its website that the organization is “committed to addressing racial injustice and helping you drive real change in your school communities.” The organization also provides resources for educators to implement equity into the classroom. Two of the resources that Second Step offers are called “Talking to Kids About Racial Identity” and “Starting in the Classroom.”
- The school district has a mental health website with a “June 2021 Family Newsletter” on the front page. The newsletter advises parents with “LGBTQ” children to “stay informed and use correct LGBTQ-related terminology.” The newsletter then states to ask these children what they would prefer to be called and specifically mentions “pronouns.”
On Sept. 9, 2021, Fairfax County Public Schools signed “Amendment 2,” a new agreement to pay $2,445,300 to Panorama Education to collect confidential data on “all” 180,000+ K-12 Fairfax County Public School children, a $599,640 increase over the already outrageous $1,845,660 contract inked on June 8, 2021, to conduct a “social and emotional learning screener” on school district children.
Fairfax County has quietly detailed the “SEL Screener” on its website. The new Fairfax County contract said Panorama Education will have access to 190,000 students including the identities of students and how they answer questions about what they “think and feel.” In its Sept. 14, 2020, Request for Proposal, the school district says “schools operate as the de facto mental health provider in communities throughout the U.S.” (page 4, section 5.6)
In the Nov. 14, 2021, school newsletter, Pathfinder Elementary School announced the “Pathfinder and Pigeon Community Restorative Circle” would be meeting on Nov. 16, 2021. It also announced “Lunchtime Community Building Groups for BIPOC & Multiracial Scholars, K-8,” saying the school district hired a “certified School Psychologist/School Counselor” to “create and facilitate” the “building groups.” It said, “Jamelia Alnajjar is a woman of color with over 10 years of experience in K-12 education and is a member of the Pathfinder community.” The “building groups” are akin to “affinity groups” in other school districts.
- The Appleton Area School District promotes “social and emotional learning” and openly works “to incorporate it into every classroom.” The district explains that it uses CASEL’s roadmap to reopening schools in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mequon Thiensville School District
- Since early 2020, the school district has spent $42,000 on consulting services by Blaquesmith Psychological Consultative Services LLC, a Milwaukee-based company founded by a local sports psychologist, Ramel Smith, according to documents obtained by the local parents’ group, Recall MTDS School Board, through a public records request.
- Training by the psychologist, his sister, Alisa Moutry, another local consultant, and others in late June 2020 included discussion of a slide, “Racism Scale: Where do you fall?”
- Payments to Blaquesmith Psychological Consultative Services LLC included $16,000 for a June 26, 2020, “Consulting/Training Webinar” and “MTSD Parent Training Session #1.” The webinar was called, “The Talk: A Necessary Conversation about Race and Privilege with Our Children,”and is available online. In the video (49:40), Smith positively quotes Derrick Bell, the founder of critical race theory, the controversial ideology causing parents much concern across the country. On its website in Frequently Asked Questions, the school system says it “has not and does not plan to take a stance on CRT.”