At least 68 school districts in the Show-Me State have adopted identical policies from the Missouri School Board Association that state the district is not required to disclose conversations between teachers or counselors and students about “academics and personal issues” with the children’s parents or guardians.
The policy, which falls under the broader “Interviews with or Removal of Students” category, claims, “school counselors meet with students to discuss academics and personal issues, teachers often discuss academic performance with students, and school officials meet with students when investigating disciplinary violations.”
Thus, the policy states, “The district will not honor requests by parents/guardians to be informed prior to these discussions, be present during the discussions, or prohibit conversations between a student and staff members.”
The Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) provided the policy as a sample, and according to Fox News Digital, “nearly all the school districts adopted it at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021.”
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Andy Wells, the Missouri president of No Left Turn in Education, believes the timing of the implementation of the policy is no coincidence.
The timing, says Wells, who has three children of his own enrolled in a school district with this policy, coincided with protests from parents at school boards in Loudoun County, Va, over parental rights and liberal curricula in the classrooms. The hot-button issue became a rallying cry for voters during the state’s 2021 gubernatorial race.
“What this tells me, is… when everything was first starting, when parents were first starting to ask questions about what’s going on in their schools, schools were scrambling on how do we not let parents know what’s going on,” Wells told Fox News.
“Now, [teachers] are given permission to have a private conversation with a student without parental knowledge, parental consent, and the parents don’t even have the right by the policy to stop the conversations from happening,” he added.
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The policy, know by the MSBA as Policy JFGA, references “20 U.S. Code § 1232g – Family educational and privacy rights” — a code Wells says doesn’t apply to JFGA.
“I am not a lawyer, but I can read, so I looked at the [U.S. Code] that this fell under, and that’s ‘Family Protection Act’ that says parents can have openness to their child’s records, and that nothing can be hidden from mom and dad,” Wells said. “How in the world did that tie in?”
Not surprisingly, those on opposite sides of the debate interpret the policy as though they are reading two different documents.
“Nothing in Policy JFGA gives authority to school personnel to keep information from parents of minor children, except in the circumstance where the Children’s Division is investigating whether the child is a victim of abuse by a parent,” MSBA Corporate Counsel and Associate Executive Director of Board Services Kelli Hopkins said in a statement.
“All MSBS model policies comply with state and federal law,” she added.
But according to America First Legal senior advisor Ian Prior, “These school systems are seemingly in a race to see who can generate the most lawsuits.”
“This [policy] is a blanket statement stating that in no circumstances will parents be included in staff discussions with students, whether those discussions are personal, academic, or disciplinary,” Prior said. “That is unconstitutionally overbroad, as such a rule will very likely infringe upon parents’ 14th Amendment right to be the primary decision maker with respect to the health, welfare and education for their children.”
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