Waconia Schools Conduct a Screener Sharing Private Student Information with the U of MN


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This is a most concerning story from a parent in the Waconia School district.  First, the parent was given notification much too late (the day of).  Secondly, teachers are being called upon to act as psychologists, though teachers might have only 1 or 2 university classes in psychology.  Third, the private information on each student goes to the University of Minnesota.  Are parents notified that personal information is sent to the U of MN?  No!  Not unless the parent asks.  Remember Minn-Link that huge 9 database data system at the U?  University “research” institutions may share private student and family information with anyone, defined under FERPA redisclosure.

Waconia Schools Conduct a Screener Sharing Private Student Information with the U of M

By Jennifer Black-Allen

Anyone else see different things happening in your school district that you are totally baffled by, or see as a very concerning issue in regards to your child’s education? I have been following my children’s education much more closely since discovering that our district was using math books with Common Core written on the front (knowing that Minnesota had not adopted the substandard standards as compared to our own Minnesota State Standards in Math). But this is just one of the things I have seen and read in my district that are very concerning to me.

Back at the beginning of October, I was angered by the email announcement of the SAEBRS (Social, Academic, Emotional & Behavioral Risk Assessment) on our students K-4th grade starting this year, and it is to be done 3 times a year. This is a series of 19 questions that each students’ teacher must fill out 3 times a year on each student.

Let’s get this straight, an email on the day of or after the fact of administering any screener, survey or assessment does not constitute disclosure. We were notified of the screener (this is what they called it instead of an assessment) via e-mail in October. I got the email 20 minutes after it was received in my inbox.

I immediately emailed my children’s teachers stating they were to be opted out of this screener as it was not on the districts testing and assessment calendar and I knew nothing about it. So until further notice, no SAEBRS for my children. Mind you, the SAEBRS is not on Waconia’s School District Assessment Schedule, which I received the week prior in an email from the district, nor is it listed today. I then posted this on my Facebook page. I had a few people message me about it and their concerns as well. I also emailed the principal of my children’s school. His response took a couple of days, but I received a packet with a letter attached from him, information about the SAEBRS, and a copy of the screener itself. It is also to be noted that nowhere in this email notice was there the option to opt out of the screener, no disclaimer, and nothing about passive consent. It was just stated that this is what we are doing and here is your notification.

By the end of the day, this screener had already been done on my child. The teacher, along with the Principal assured me that my child’s screener had been taken out of the system, and unfortunately, there is now no record paper or digital of your child’s screener. Additionally, in the letter I received from the principal, it clearly stated that, “It is not an assessment in the normal sense we think of.  It is simply a quick rating scale the teacher does on each student in their respective classrooms.  It typically takes less than 30 minutes for a teacher to complete on their entire class.  Students are not directly involved in the process. Most teachers have already completed the scale.”

A couple days later, I got the letter and packet of information from the principal. The information included in this should have been disclosed to each of Waconia’s K-4 parents and then they make the decision on whether their children should participate or not. Our children are not lab rats, and should not be poked and prodded about their lives.

In the letter, “social emotional learning plays a substantial role in creating a positive school climate for children, which in turn promotes school connectedness and increased academic success… Specifically, SAEBRS evaluates general behavior, social, emotional and academic behaviors. The SAEBRS is used nationally and designed for the use across all grade levels K-12, it was developed by the University of Minnesota. Reports provide information on whether individual students are at-risk for academic, social, and/or identify emotional behaviors. When SAEBRS is used to screen students across a class or grade level, the group reports help identify trends that may need class-wide or school-wide intervention and support.”

So just who is my district, or your district sharing information about our children with? And going further, who are those parties sharing our children’s information with? This screener’s data is stored at the University of Minnesota as part of the Formative Assessment System Topics program (FAST) and discloses our children’s Name, grade level and MARS number, meaning individual data being collected and we have no idea how many other “Authorized Representatives” have access to this information. Personally Identifiable Information on our students being sent out of our school district to the U of M.

How many of you have read your school board policies? (Crickets), You are not alone. But everyone needs to take the time to read through them, especially the 515 Protection and Privacy of Pupil Records and the 520 Student Surveys sections. In reading Waconia’s 515 policy, Authorized Representative

“Authorized representative” means any entity or individual designated by the school district, state, or an agency headed by an official of the Comptroller of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, or state and local educational authorities to conduct, with respect to federal or state supported education programs, any audit or evaluation or any compliance or enforcement activity in connection with federal legal requirements that relate to these programs.

My biggest concern is that Waconia School District approved this Screener, and did not fully disclose the information that this information was being collected by the U of M. This was only disclosed to me once I questioned about where this information went. And that parents should have had this information along with a disclosure, just as with the Minnesota Student Survey their right to opt their children out.

As my children’s education advocate, I will continue to question any and all assignments, assessments, surveys, screeners that are administered. I am thankful for the information that our principal supplied, as it reinforced my decision to advocate for my children and that their data not be shared. I continue to look into and research the assessments that my children are subject to. Our schools are to assess academics, not values.


SAEBRS Screener from Waconia

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