NC’s largest district is experimenting on some of its students with a “Social, Emotional and Behavioral” assessment

Last week, I reported on how I accidentally found out about Wake County Public School System’s (WCPSS) intent to deploy a  “social, emotional and behavioral universal assessment.” I received some information, but I have more questions than before.

To recap a bit more, I reported last week that my child was almost swept up in a massive data collection attempt by our school district and my efforts to see the assessment were blocked by our principal.

After a series of back and forth emails, WCPSS Communications Director Tim Simmons turned over a blank copy of the teacher assessment.

The instructions on the first page of the document sent to me read as follows:

BIMAS-2 Teacher Instructions - WCPSS

Teachers are being asked to remember the emotional states and behaviors of each student over the week prior and then “give their best guess” how often emotional states and behaviors occurred.  It’s not just a few areas they are rating the child on but 34 different line items. Some of them are benign, but the majority are actually quite personal and invasive.

Setting aside this is yet another task added to our teachers that keeps them from actually teaching, the teacher doing the rating is basically in charge of deciding whether or not the district will now label your child as problematic.  Alternatively, what if the teacher rates them as doing just fine and then the child harms themself or another? That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Here is the full document:

No other information related to the assessment was included, but Simmons’ reply included talking points provided to him by “Counseling and Student Services” to convince me this was not a psychological assessment:

  • The Behavior Intervention Monitoring Assessment System-2 is a social-emotional learning/behavior screener for behavioral health. It is not a mental health assessment.
  • The screener helps identify students who are at risk of future academic, behavior or emotional difficulties.
  • This is part of the district’s work to create a “balanced assessment framework” that supports students’ academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs.
  • Screeners serve as one tool for providing data on how well schools are meeting the needs of students

My background and college degree are in psychology – adolescent and child psych were my concentration areas.

The BIMAS-2’s intent to predict future emotional states and actions; it’s very nature is psychological. Emotions are psychological and are represented or manifested in outward behaviors. In short, behavior IS psychological.

I replied that the “Counseling and Student Services” department is splitting hairs by calling it behavioral instead of psychological so the district doesn’t get sued.

I also added that the BIMAS-2 was created by a man with a doctorate in psychology for the express purpose of identifying “kids who might be in need of emotional/behavior support and that monitors the effectiveness of on-going behavior interventions.”

A Data Collection Nightmare

The fact the BIMAS-2 was not named on the notification letters nor on many of the opt-out forms I’ve seen is either gross negligence by the district or a willful attempt to keep parents in the dark. Either way, this survey represents a massive data collection effort on WCPSS students and that opens up even more questions.

The News and Observer’s Keung Hui reported on the BIMAS-2 and quoted me in the article.

A.P. Dillon, a conservative blogger and parent at Holly Ridge Middle, complained on her blog and on Twitter that the survey is an invasion of students’ privacy. She said Wake should have required parents to opt-in, instead of opting-out of the survey.

“These are minor children, and the district has no business evaluating them medically or psychologically without the express written permission of their parents or legal guardians,” Dillon said in an interview.

The survey is part of Wake’s social emotional learning, or SEL, curriculum. Schools are trying to help students manage their emotions so they can build positive relationships and make responsible decisions.

The article goes on to detail how the WCPSS school board wants to use more of these ad-hoc psychological surveys and expand the controversial “circle time” activity where students are put in a circle for 30 minutes each week and told to ‘discuss their feelings’ on a pre-selected topic. Those who do not wish to participate in “circle time” have reported being ostracized and retaliated against by both school staff and students.

Just how disconnected this board is from reality is apparent with Chair Jim Martin’s reply denying circle time is “group therapy,” and that  “It’s going to reduce bullying. It’s going to increase safety. It’s going to make better workers.”

Other parents finding out about the BIMAS-2 are not happy about the “opt-out” path WCPSS keeps taking:

How Many Kids Are Being Swept Up By This Experiment?

Hui was apparently able to get answers that, as a parent, I was unable to obtain and found out that only 40 schools out of the over 170 in the district are involved in this experiment.

Eight schools, including Green Hope High and Holly Ridge Middle, are starting these assessments this year and their opt-out date was October 30.

No other school names have been turned over by the district and according to Hui’s article,  Simmons said that not all 40 schools have been picked yet, the names of those schools were not given out, and the BIMAS-2 will be given twice a year.

A pilot was done last year on nine schools, which the district also still has not named.

In addition, the opt-out dates are being picked according to the dates the schools are choosing for their teachers to administer the BIMAS-2.

The company listed on the BIMAS-2 survey is Edumetrisis. Their privacy policy and legal statements are not reassuring.

I have so many more questions than answers at this point.

  • Why was BIMAS-2 not on any of the notification or opt-out material
  • Which schools are involved?
  • Why not all 170+ schools?
  • How much is this costing taxpayers?
  • Who has the data?
  • Where is it stored?
  • Who gets to see it?
  • What is it used for?
  • How long does the district keep it? Is it ever destroyed? If so, when and how?
  • Can parents opt-out after opting-in? If so, how?
  • How do parents know if their child is really opted-out?
  • Can parents access it? If so, will parents be turned away from their schools for that information as seems to be the district’s standard operating procedure?

The next WCPSS board meeting is November 5 at 5:30 pm.  The location is Crossroads I – Board Room at 5625 Dillard Drive in Cary.

Parents wishing to speak out about the BIMAS-2 or other topics such as the current attempt to reassign students from Holly Springs to Garner schools need to sign up to do so starting at noon on Nov. 5.

I hope some parents do attend and speak out because, to borrow from WCPSS, “what starts with parents, changes everything.”

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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