School district paid thousands to org linked to Merrick Garland for intrusive surveys

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – Colorado Springs School District 11 (CSSD) paid tens of thousands of dollars for surveys asking students how often they think about the “experiences” of…

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – Colorado Springs School District 11 (CSSD) paid tens of thousands of dollars for surveys asking students how often they think about the “experiences” of someone of a different race or ethnicity, according to a public records request obtained by Parents Defending Education (PDE), a parental rights group.

The district paid Panorama Education, an education software company founded by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s son-in-law, Xan Tanner, a total of $64,573 for the surveys, an annual membership fee and a professional development workshop for the 2023-2024 school year, according to documents obtained by PDE and shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. The survey goes over a number of topics about school climate, including a section titled “Feelings About School,” which has students answer how often their teacher pushes them to think about race and ethnicity, ranging from “almost never” to “almost always.” 

“How often do teachers encourage you to learn about people from different races, ethnicities, or cultures,” the survey reads. “How often do you think about what someone of a different race, ethnicity, or culture experiences?”

Students were also asked to weigh in on how their class discusses “major news events related to race” and how often the school encourages them to “think more deeply about race-related topics,” according to survey. Other questions ask students to rate how the school facilitates conversations about race and whether or not it does a good job helping “students speak out against racism.”

Erika Sanzi, director of outreach for PDE, told the DCNF that it was “strange” that a school district would spend thousands of dollars to “badger” students about race.

“There is something strange about spending so much taxpayer money on an outside vendor so you can badger kids about their thoughts and feelings on race, especially when there isn’t a shred of evidence that this relentless focus on race and ethnicity improves any outcomes for students,” Sanzi said.

A Panorama Education spokesperson told the DCNF that the district makes all the decisions about how to administer survey content to its students and what to do with the data after the fact.

“Panorama Education … helps students achieve academic success and well-being, and gives schools and school districts a platform to hear what parents, students and teachers need in the classroom,” the spokesperson said. Districts own all the data and make decisions on how student data will be used. Our survey technology and research-backed templates are designed to help students succeed—which has become increasingly critical as we embark on academic recovery following the pandemic.”

A Massachusetts school district also paid $30,000 from 2018 to 2023 for social-emotional learning (SEL) surveys from Panorama Education for staff and students. The Old Rochester Regional School District’s “anti-racism subcommittee” conducted a Panorama Education survey of its 6-12 grade students during the 2021-2022 school year to gauge their “cultural awareness and action, diversity and inclusion, and sense of belonging.”

Panorama Education has been the subject of scrutiny due to its connection to Garland, who issued a memo in 2021 ordering the agency to “use its authority” on parents who were protesting at school board meetings all over the country. Some Republicans said that they felt Garland may have a conflict of interest during a 2021 House Judiciary hearing but the former director dismissed the idea, saying that there was “no conflict.”

CSSD did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.