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At least 68 Missouri school districts have identical policies, provided by the Missouri School Board Association, stating districts do not have to disclose conversations about “academics and personal issues” between students and teachers or counselors to the student’s parent or guardian.
The policies, which are part of the broader category “Interviews with or Removal of Students,” state “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.”
“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 policy continues.
The policy is provided as a sample by the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA), and nearly all the school districts adopted it at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021.
Andy Wells, a parent with three children in a school district with this policy, told Fox News Digital he does not believe it is a coincidence that the policy was implemented at the time it was.
Wells, who is also the Missouri president of No Left Turn in Education, said these policies were put in place at the same time media began covering parent protests of school boards in Loudoun County, Va., which became a focal point of the 2021 state gubernatorial election.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Wells added.
The policy, which is labeled by the MSBA as Policy JFGA, cites “20 U.S. Code § 1232g – Family educational and privacy rights” as a reference, which Wells said he does not believe applies to the policy in question.
“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. How in the world did that tie in?” he asked.
MSBA Corporate Counsel and Associate Executive Director of Board Services Kelli Hopkins told Fox News Digital in a statement, “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. All MSBA model policies comply with state and federal law.”
“These school systems are seemingly in a race to see who can generate the most lawsuits,” America First Legal senior advisor Ian Prior told Fox News Digital in a statement. “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. 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 of their children.”
Wells said these policies give teachers and counselors the opportunity to have private conversations with students about academics, race and gender identity without parental knowledge, consent or the ability to opt out.
“Now, if there is a question of child abuse, neglect, something like that, I absolutely understand the need for the private conversation to do the investigation to determine if there’s an issue,” Wells said, adding he does not believe that should give teachers blanket approval to have any private conversation with students without parental consent.
The full policy section reads: “There are many situations where school employees will meet with individual students. 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. These conversations are an essential part of the educational process. 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.”
At the time the policies were implemented, the MSBA was affiliated with the National School Board Association. In October 2021, the MSBA cut ties with the latter.
No Left Turn in Education President and Founder Dr. Elana Fishbein told Fox News Digital in a statement, “Schools do not have the authority to exclude parents from conversations with or about their children. A parent should always be privy to anything any staff member says to a student that is a minor.”