IF you have kids in: EXETER, BRENTWOOD, EAST KINGSTON, KENSINGTON, NEWFIELDS, or STRATHAM, MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS. IF you know of anyone who lives there, make sure THEY read this:
Dear Superintendent Ryan,
I’m filing a 91-a request for information.
I had a lengthy discussion with Marc Kirsch who is a sales representative for the DESSA [Social Emotional Learning Assessment tool] screening tool. He acknowledged that the DESSA is a psychological evaluation used in some New Hampshire Schools.
In addition, Plymouth State University was collecting this highly sensitive student data and offering the DESSA program free of charge to schools that participated. Since then I’ve heard from New Hampshire parents and teachers in other districts who’ve raised numerous concerns to the point where they are not comfortable with these kinds of psychological evaluations.
Here are the questions I have on the DESSA software or any other materials or programs that gather data on social and emotional learning. :
- Is there an organization that is providing the DESSA program and, at what cost to the school district?
- Is the DESSA or any other SEL program part of any research conducted on students? If so, what is the purpose of this research on the students in the SAU? Who will receive the data Please provide a copy of the contract, which should include a student- privacy statement.
- What, if any, federal or state laws govern this research in terms of privacy protections for subjects on any SEL program used in the school district?
- Is there a code of ethics that the teachers or other personnel will follow while administering the DESSA screening or any other SEL program? Are these individuals licensed? If so, how are they licensed? What criteria must they meet in order to obtain their license?
- Are there any other materials or programs besides the DESSA that will provide you with student data on social and emotional learning?
- Do you have any information on the number of false-positives that come from this type of screening? Have you analyzed this and if so, what were the recommendations? What kind of ramifications come from a student who is flagged as suicidal or other emotional problems but is actually flagged by mistake? How is this handled?
- Please provide a copy of the privacy agreement between the district and Social Sentinel. How are the data secured?
- Please provide a copy of the parental consent form for students to participate in the DESSA screening or any other SEL program.
- How will the district develop a plan to evaluate the Multi-Tiered System of Support? Will this be done by an independent researcher and peer-reviewed? If so, what code of ethics would the researchers have to follow while conducting research on the mental health of the students in the district?
- Please provide documentation and/or agreement with 2Rev along with any agreement for compensation.
- Who will have access to the data compiled by DESSA? How long will the district store the data?
- Is there a protocol for a breach of data? If so, please provide that information.
- Who is responsible if any sensitive information is released by school personnel? Would parents be contacted and informed? Is this in a school policy? If so, please provide that written policy.
- Please provide the school policy on mental health screenings and treatment, and the professional credentials and licensing of those providing these mental health services.
- Provide the school policy that states how each child’s sensitive data will be secured. What happens to that data once a child leaves the school district? What happens to the data if the vendor files bankruptcy? Is the data ever destroyed? If so, by whom?
- Provide the peer-reviewed/independent research on any program used to diagnose or treat SEL issues? I’m not looking for biased research provided by the vendor, but actual independent research that shows the effectiveness of the program. (DESSA or any other SEL program used or under consideration)
- Who administers the DESSA screenings in the school? What are their professional credentials?
- Who then administers the treatment if a child is flagged for needing additional support/treatment? Their credentials?
- Provide a copy of ALL questions that are asked to screen students in your school district for every grade level. (DESSA or any other SEL Screening)
- Provide a copy of the contract between the school district and the SEL vendors.
- Provide a copy of the permission slip sent to parents/guardians requesting their consent to screen or assess their child on SEL. What, if any, information did you provide to parents on the vendor who is providing this service?
- Did the school board members vote to approve of mental health screenings for all students? If so, when did that vote take place?
- Did the legal team provide any details on the possibilities of a malpractice lawsuit or something similar, that could arise if a child who is being treated by the school district, acts out in a violent way or harms themselves or others? If so, what kind of information was provided to the administration and/or school board members?
- Is the SEL program being provided through a grant, or is there any financial compensation to the district? If so, what are the details? Was it provided free of charge?
- If children become research subjects, have their families been offered any sort of compensation? If not, why not?
- Are copies of all SEL assessments and or screenings sent to parents so they can review what is being asked of their children?
- Provide the ethical guidelines the district currently uses when conducting research on children and/or assessing their mental health.
- What are the current school board policies addressing mental health screenings/treatment in the school?
- What are the current school board policies guiding research on students?
- What credentials or licenses in child psychology do the staff members have, who were trained to administer SEL/DESSA?
Finally, from the meeting SAU 16 JOINT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING MINUTES MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2020:
They’re looking at DESSA (the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment) screening for all students in grade 6 and 9; it’s already happening in at least two grades in elementary school in October, and possibly more. They were able to negotiate a privacy agreement with Social Sentinel, for monitoring of Facebook and Instagram as well as school email and chat for students in mental health crises. In the past few weeks, there have been four chats that have resulted in either an emergency transport or a connection with counseling resources for suicidal ideation.
This type of information made public has the potential of identifying the student. While the student’s name is not included in the notes, the event itself may be familiar to the students who were part of the four chats. Those students may now know who it was that needed services for suicidal ideation.
In other words, something as simple as this statement can reveal sensitive information on a student within the district. This deserves scrutiny on how this information is made public. This may not only impact the student if this becomes gossip, it can impact the school legally too.
Ann Marie Banfield