Report by Paula Antolini, April 11, 2022, 7:58AM EDT
Three recent events at Bethel Public Schools (BPS) got the immediate attention of parents this past week, and not in a good way. Some parents were questioning two controversial student surveys and a third event entitled, “Names Can Really Hurt Us.”
Surveys were administered to students by Bethel Public Schools, the first on Tuesday, April 5th, to 10th graders, age 15-16 and a second survey named the “Attitudes and Behaviors” (A&B) Survey, by the Search Institute, was given to 8th graders, age 12-13, on April 7th at the Bethel Middle School (BMS).
The Search Institute website reads, “The Attitudes & Behaviors Survey is a reliable and valid assessment of the strengths, supports, and social-emotional factors essential for young people’s success in school and life.”
“Social Emotional Learning” (SEL) has been utilized heavily in the Bethel Public Schools Curriculum and also in the “Strategic Plan” for at least several years now, maybe more, as we’ve seen it mentioned back in 2018. Were parents informed of these extreme changes ahead of time?
View a sample report here of what information the Search Institute will gather from the survey administered to Bethel students.
Did parents ever agree, or have a voice in whether or not to allow Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into Bethel Public Schools? Or to expose their child(ren) to age-inappropriate topics? Or have them answer questions revealing extremely personal information about themselves? Anonymous survey or not, the damage is already done by the exposure. This “exposure” has possibly been going on for years in numerous ways, without parental consent. Should school officials and staff be held responsible for possibly not following student privacy laws?
NOTE: The Search Institute is funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Search Institute also heavily promotes Social Emotional Learning (SEL). They refer to parents and family as “external assets.” The “Developmental Assets framework listed on Harvard University as a SEL framework” link on this page leads to another page of connections heavily promoting SEL such as CABE which is the developer, The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
The school surveys contained inappropriate questions, for example on gender identification, sexual identity, sexual behavior, smoking, drugs and drinking habits, violence, and even actions, activities and backgrounds of parents and much more.
Many parents feel that the numerous personal questions asked in the surveys, including many age-inappropriate questions, violate state and federal laws. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) applies to the programs and activities of a state education agency (SEA), local education agency (LEA), or other recipient of funds under any program funded by the U.S. Department of Education.” … “It governs the administration to students of a survey, analysis, or evaluation that concerns one or more of the following eight protected areas:
- political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent;
- mental or psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
- sex behavior or attitudes;
- illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
- critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
- legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
- religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or
- income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).”
Clearly the surveys covered many of these topics shown.
View sample partial surveys below.
(These samples do not show the worst questions. We will update with exact survey after school break ends the week after April 15.)
“NAMES CAN REALLY HURT US” school event / BHS
The Bethel High School (BHS) “Names Can Really Hurt Us,” event held on April 6th, in the BHS auditorium, had even more questionable actions by the Bethel Public Schools.
Sophomore students were directed to “report to the auditorium first thing in the morning on April 6th.” The event lasted throughout the day for 4 hours. Parents were not allowed to attend the event. Parents were also not given a copy of the program ahead of time and were denied a copy of the program when they tried to obtain one.
The event was “cooperatively presented” by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and “trained students.” What are “trained students” and who trained them, and from what documents, and when and where? Who approved an outside organization co-hosting an event in BPS and who approved the program? What did the program contain? We still don’t know.
Please check the Anti-Defamation League website and their “Glossary of Extremism” here for example, to read their views on different topics so you can decide if this organization is neutral, or appropriate to be included as co-host in a school event, especially bringing one-sided politics into the schools.
The notification letter to “Grade 10 Parent(s) and Student(s)” from the “BHS Administration and School Counseling Department” stated in part:
“Sensitive topics will be discussed during this program. Counselors and Social Workers will be available during and after this event to discuss any issues that may arise. Cell phones will not be permitted during this presentation. Please ask your child to leave them at home or in their lockers.”
View letter below.
LETTER TO “GRADE 10 PARENTS AND STUDENTS” from “BHS ADMINISTRATION AND SCHOOL COUNSELING DEPARTMENT, ABOUT SCHOOL EVENT “NAMES CAN REALLY HURT US” ON APRIL 6TH:
The Bethel protest rally on April 4th, and some parents extremely opposing BPS policies, events and surveys, might have already precipitated a change in school policies regarding Thursday’s survey. By the time Thursday arrived, a letter had already been sent to parents and guardians from the Bethel Middle School Principal Bryan Watson, mentioning the 8th grade survey and the fact that parents could visit the BMS office to view a copy of the survey. An “opt out” form was also included. Why wasn’t this done for the 10th grade students survey, or for the Wednesday event “Names Can Really Hurt Us,”?
View letter below.
LETTER TO “PARENT(S) AND GUARDIAN(S)” from BETHEL MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL BRYAN BRYAN WATSON, ABOUT “ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS” SCHOOL SURVEY ON APRIL 7TH:
“RALLY FOR PARENTS INCLUSION”
Should the schools be holding events in which they deny parents access to their children for hours and prevent parents from obtaining information about what is being taught, and banning cell phones to prevent recording the event or even contact with parents in an emergency? Notice that the letter above says, “students WILL participate.”
The “Rally for Parents Rights and Inclusion” was organized by long time resident Bill Ochs, who has two young children in Bethel Public Schools and who is a former BPS basketball, soccer and softball coach. He objects to how the school is handling many issues, particularly the “Names Can Really Hurt Us” event and the controversial surveys, among many other issues.
At the rally Ochs said, “We’re here to protect our kids, because I love Bethel’s kids, every kid here, that I’ve coached from when they were 8 years old all the way up into high school. And we’re here today to let everybody know that we’re going to take care of them the best that we can.” Ochs continued, “The school administrators from the top down, they have let kids down. They intimidate you. They break the law.” Ochs especially thinks bullying in the schools is not handled well, which he publicly stated at a recent town meeting. “I will do everything to protect my kids,” Ochs said.
Anne Manusky, of Easton, President of the Connecticut Republican Assembly (CTRA), also attended the “Rally for Parents Rights and Inclusion.” Anne has concerns about public education and promotes advocacy to make positive changes to “the devolution of CT education at the local and state-wide levels in regard to developmentally inappropriate Common Core, CRT [Critical Race Theory], SEL [Social Emotional Learning], and the sexualizing of curriculum since 2018.” She felt compelled to attend the rally in support Bethel parents, in that “many school boards and administrators are violating the rights of the parents by not adhering to Constitutional laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and PPRA, she said. “The children are under attack in the schools, and parents need to take a stand. There are many taxpayers awake who want to support them.”
Amy Bourdan, founder of the group Parent’s Choice, was at the rally, and stated, “The protest was to speak out in opposition of public schools proctoring assemblies and distributing surveys pertaining to sexual relations, gender identity and nonconformity, drug and alcohol use and even personal questions asking students their opinion and perspectives on their parents. Not only are these surveys very leading and biased in nature, but they are also explicit and go so far as to ask questions about students’ participation in illegal activities. One question even asks how often the student is home alone. The type of data that is being collected violates federal law and infringes on the student’s right to privacy, right to confidentiality, right to opt out of such assembly days and surveys and be free from penalty (such as being marked as an unexcused absence).”
Bourdon said, “Parent’s Choice members were alarmed that students were instructed to leave cell phones at home and that the assembly was a full four hours and included the standby assistance of trained health professionals, counselors and state workers. If students could be experiencing crisis, why would an assembly like this not require parents being present or parental consent?” … “These forums should be OPT IN and parents should be given the opportunity to be present in a parents portion of the seminars, breakouts and “information sessions.”
Bourdon continued, “Any time students are taught to undermine their parents, not to confide in their parents or not to trust their parents, you can guarantee that I will be in attendance or a member of Parent’s Choice will be in attendance to confront this egregious overreach of government.”
Parents Choice is a private Facebook group. Community members can follow her on Facebook at “Amy Bourdon” and request group membership by searching for Parent’s Choice in the Facebook search bar.
The Bethel Advocate has many more questions about the school administrators’ actions, school events and surveys, and we will update this article at a later date, since the schools are closed from April 11-15th and no one is present to reply to emails or phone calls.