• Darien Public Schools Requires NDA, Monitored Onsite Viewing For Parents To Review School Climate Survey

    "Equity" is intrinsic to all aspects of school climate work done by the group conducting the survey, the National School Climate Center

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    Parental rights advocates Darien Parents are alerting parents about a climate survey that the public schools will be administering for grades 3-12 from April 22nd through May 6th.

    The Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) survey will be conducted in partnership with the National School Climate Center (NSCC). Topics include gender identity for middle schoolers and gender identity and sexual orientation for high schoolers.

    Parents have until Friday, April 12th to opt their children out of the survey.

    Parents who wanted to review the survey to make an informed decision about their child's participation were given rather onerous requirements, including that they:

    • Must sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) prior to reviewing the survey;
    • Can only view the survey at the school with an appointment;
    • Must be monitored by a DPS staff member when viewing the survey; and
    • Are prohibited from photographing the survey.

    Sure makes you want to know what's on that survey, right?

    The Climate Survey is considered Darien's largest expense related to social emotional learning (SEL) and the RULER program, which is Yale's tool for teaching children to monitor and track their emotions on a 4x4 grid.

    After the survey is conducted, NSCC generates a report, like this one, to help guide the district on certain areas of focus in order to improve the overall climate.

    Odds are the solution will require more SEL lessons being delivered to students through the "equity lens".

    In case you weren't aware, "equity is intrinsic to all aspects of school climate work" according to an NSCC Climate Practice Brief. In fact, NSCC clearly states that "equity is not a separate issue" just to drive the point home.

    All work on equity concerns begins with one’s own self-reflection. Most of us grow up within cultural “bubbles” of race, ethnicity, class, ability, gender, sexual orientation, and first language. These “bubbles” create worldviews. Sometimes the experiences of where we live, socialize, emigrate, go to work or school help us see that others may have very different worldviews from ours. For educators, unbroken “bubbles” are particularly troublesome.

    Becoming aware of our “bubbles” and breaking out of them can happen through high quality “diversity training” (Lee, StirFry Seminars), reading books to challenge our deepest assumptions (see References for suggestions), or simply being open to noticing subtle thoughts and behaviors rooted in unacknowledged stereotypes (Harvard, Project Implicit).

    - NSCC School Climate and Equity Practice Brief

    The Equity Practice Brief goes onto argue how important it is for every student to be able to “see
    themselves” in the curriculum, library and more. It also talks about the importance of developing awareness of students' unique cultural experiences. The Brief cautions that "finding the right balance of warm and caring with firm discipline and high academic expectations is difficult for many white, middle class educators." Of course, addressing the "equity" related school climate issues "is a moral imperative" says the NSCC.

    The NSCC is led by Co-Executive Directors Adam St. Bernard Jacobs and Christian Villenas, PhD.

    In light of NSCC's equity focus, it probably won't come as a surprise that Mr. Jacobs appears to be a vocal anti-racism advocate, previously hosting the "Raising Antiracist Kids" workshop series at the Brooklyn Public Library. Both he and his wife were featured in an article about raising kids who are actively anti-racist, where Mr. Jacobs was quoted as saying:

    • "Now as a parent, I have the opportunity to teach my kids about the history of systemic racism (in age-appropriate ways) so that harm is not perpetuated. Even though they are kids of color, they have privilege..."
    • "It’s critical for kids to receive anti-bias education not just at home but also at school... Children learn empathy and learn that everyone holds some bias. "
    • "We’re going to be diving into how parents should treat anti-racism work as a family approach, how to confront the feelings of insecurity about doing this work in your family, and how to treat discomfort as a learning tool. We’re also going to be delving into how to talk about police violence, colorism, white privilege, and more."
    • "I also want to help realize a world where those with power, particularly straight, cis white men like me, are able to step back and understand power and break barriers in a way that is healthy and positive."
    Screenshot, Brooklyn Public Library

    Mr. Villenas' background seems to have deep roots in LGBTQ-related issues.

    In fact, prior to joining NSCC, he served as a Senior Research Associate at the controversial Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) where he "designed and managed research and evaluation projects related to LGBTQ issues in K-12 education." Per Mr. Villenas' LinkedIn profile, he has "also collaborated with organizational allies to promote GLSEN's policy and programmatic agenda."

    GLSEN believes it's critical for LGBTQ+ programming to begin in elementary school, so it assembled the Ready, Set, Respect! Elementary School Toolkit. "When teaching science it can quickly get very binary (sperm/egg, male/female, XX/XY). The most important thing is to dismantle this polarizing way of thinking and giving ample examples of ways that nature is not binary. Science class can be a place where a very complex world can be, incorrectly, summarized in binaries." 

    Source: GLSEN

    Darien Parents has issued a call to action over the lack of transparency between the schools and parents regarding the survey.

    You can learn more by clicking here.

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    Bob MacGuffie

    Just curious - was there any discussion or recognition of reading, writing, math, science...or any of the other important subjects we send ou rchildren to school to learn?.....

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