More than one-fifth of the nation’s largest 100 school districts have contracts with a Critical Race Theory-tinged firm cofounded by the son-in-law of Attorney General Merrick Garland, who recently raised the specter of involving the FBI against parents who express anger over CRT and other issues at school board meetings.
Garland’s daughter is married to Xan Tanner, a cofounder of Panorama Education, which issues surveys to students asking if they are feeling “genderfluid,” and asks, “How confident are you that students at your school can have honest conversations with each other about race?”
At least one district’s contract says all of the personal student data is sent to the company — which is funded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — under a loophole that circumvents a requirement for parental consent by counting the for-profit company as a “school official,” not an outside vendor.
Panorama, which focuses on “social-emotional learning” and surveys that gauge the feelings of parents, students, and staff, has among the broadest tentacles of any educational consultant. At least 22 of the nation’s largest 100 school districts have paid Panorama a combined $12 million in recent years, with a 23rd set to pay it millions more, a Daily Wire review found.
Asra Nomani, vice president for investigations at Parents Defending Education, first exposed the relationship between Garland and the company.
The Daily Wire sent Freedom of Information Act requests to all of the 100 largest districts that did not provide spending data online and ultimately reviewed data for 64. Panorama had been hired by one-third of them. There are 13,000 school districts in the U.S., so the total number of districts that have a relationship with Panorama is likely far higher — perhaps in the thousands.
Nomani reported on September 7 that Fairfax County, Virginia, would be using $2.4 million in coronavirus emergency funds to pay the company “to screen ‘all’ Fairfax children and conduct psychometric evaluations and create psychological profiles.” In other words, after teachers’ union-induced extended school closure led to psychological harm to students, the schools would now be using coronavirus money to gather highly personal and at times ideologically charged data about students, and give it to a tech company.
PDE added that Panorama is “a for-profit company funded in part by Mark Zuckerberg, well-known for harvesting and monetizing data.” Fairfax’s contract with Panorama, it said, included in fine print that “the Company and its Authorized Representative shall be deemed to be school officials of the School Board.”
Fairfax official Deborah E. Scott told Nomani that “FCPS is permitted under the law to share student data with outside vendors who meet the criteria of the ‘school official’ exception under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (‘FERPA’). Third-parties who are considered ‘school officials’ are permitted to receive student data absent parent consent.”
Nomani noted that if there were issues around violating FERPA by putting student emotional data in the hands of big tech, it would fall to Garland to enforce that.
Her parents’ group encouraged parents to submit a form opting out of the “social-emotional” testing. Many did, but Fairfax attempted to talk them into withdrawing their opt-out forms:
Now @fcpsnews is emailing parents who OPT OUT of the @PanoramaEd data mining experiment to see if parents made a "mistake." Remember: FCPS gave Panorama "school official" status to circumvent privacy laws. Opt-out here: https://t.co/YwDdu6G7xW pic.twitter.com/Rd3J7nCMxI
— Asra Q. Nomani “Domestic Terrorist” (@AsraNomani) October 5, 2021
Soon after the link between Panorama and Garland was exposed, on October 1, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) penned a letter complaining that parents have increasingly become hostile at school boards. That has occurred as parents feel unheard on issues related to union-backed school shutdowns, mask requirements, and Critical Race Theory.
NSBA demanded that the White House consider deploying “the PATRIOT ACT in regards to domestic terrorism” against individuals, including parents, who acted inappropriately, saying, “As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” It provided no evidence for how recent interactions could fall into those categories, or why if there were crimes committed, they would not be handled by local police. Incidents it cited in footnotes include cases of parents “mocking” school board members or offering “insults.”
Almost immediately, on Monday, Garland’s DOJ took action, ordering the FBI to work with local authorities to curb “harassment” and “threats of violence” against school administrators.
Ironically, the Denver school system billed the Panorama expenditure to its “Office of Parent Engagement.” Washoe County, Nevada, paid it $270,000, in part “to do Climate Surveys: Student, Staff and Parent.” New York City paid $6.5 million to the company between 2016 and 2020. Prince George’s County, Maryland, paid more than $1 million between 2015 and 2018, according to spending records.
The Daily Wire asked Panorama if, as a company paid in part to gauge the sentiment of parents, it condemned the NSBA statement, or if it knew of any recent example where a parent’s action to a school official could reasonably qualify as “domestic terrorism.” It also asked whether there were any examples of the data it is paid to collect about parent satisfaction being used to change policy to comport with parents’ desires, thereby making them less angry.
It did not respond to the questions, instead saying, “Our technology is used to help schools gather feedback from students, families, and educators. Panorama only uses student data for the purpose of helping schools and districts better serve their students. Panorama is not affiliated with any particular academic philosophy, including critical race theory (CRT).” The spokesperson asked not to be named but specified that her pronouns are she, her, and hers.
Panorama’s website says it can help “cultivate equitable, culturally responsive schools” and “signal the importance of equity and inclusion to the community.” Equity is generally the K-12 industry’s word for Critical Race Theory.
The watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust blasted the DOJ, saying “the intimidation tactic that appears focused on reducing opposition from angry parents to the Biden Administration’s special interest allies, campaign donors, and corporate interests may become the basis for federal indictments. If it turns out the National School Boards Association letter, which seems to have prompted the DOJ response, was in any way solicited by the White House or Administration officials, individual officials may be facing allegations and even charges of criminal misconduct.”
In Fairfax, the district that hired Panoramic for $2.4 million, school board member Abrar Omeish — whose father was imam at the mosque attended by two 9/11 terrorists — opposed a motion calling for a moment of silence to honor 9/11 victims last month, lamenting in part abuses of the PATRIOT Act. But on social media, she posted approvingly of the school board association’s call against parents deemed “domestic terrorists.”
A list of school districts among the nation’s largest 100 which paid Panorama is below.
|New York City||NY||2016 – 2020||$6,460,247|
|Dallas ISD||TX||2016 – 2019||$1,445,568|
|Prince George’s County||MD||2015 – 2018||$1,013,250|
|San Bernardino City Unified||CA||2016 – 2020||$975,585|
|Hawaii||HI||2019 – 2019||$478,072|
|Seattle||WA||2015 – 2019||$391,410|
|Washoe County||NV||2014 – 2020||$270,242|
|Long Beach Unified||CA||2017 – 2018||$267,000|
|San Antonio ISD||TX||2019 – 2020||$143,250|
|Lewisville ISD||TX||2017 – 2019||$132,450|
|Broward||FL||2016 – 2019||$123,998|
|Osceola||FL||2020 – 2020||$97,373|
|Aldine ISD||TX||2020 – 2020||$93,650|
|El Paso ISD||TX||2018 – 2019||$71,499|
|Corona-Norco Unified||CA||2017 – 2020||$58,000|
|Baltimore City||MD||2017 – 2020||$43,200|
|Columbus City||OH||2018 – 2020||$40,275|
|City of Chicago (SD 299)||IL||2018 – 2020||$30,500|
|Pinellas||FL||2017 – 2017||$15,000|
|Jordan||UT||2019 – 2019||$10,750|
|Clayton County||GA||2018 – 2018|
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