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West Chester Area School District Promises Policy Review After Political Survey Distributed Schoolwide

The West Chester Area School District on Monday said it would review its policies after controversy arose about a schoolwide survey in which high school students were asked about the politics and news-consumption habits of their homelife.

“WCASD is aware of questions regarding a high school student’s survey,” the district said in an email to Broad + Liberty from its communication director as well as in a Twitter thread.

“The survey being shared was created as part of a student’s advanced placement project and intended only to assist with the student’s research. All AP surveys are completely voluntary and anonymous. Once District administration became aware of concerns due to the political nature of the survey, it was reviewed, taken down, and any previously recorded responses were deleted. WCASD is examining its procedures regarding the distribution of surveys to students and taking necessary steps to ensure that future student research projects and distribution occur in a fashion consistent with Board policy.”

The promise for a policy review comes after Broad + Liberty published a story Friday afternoon about the survey which had become a controversy in social media in previous days.

The survey asked students at Bayard Rustin High School how their parents were believed to have voted in the last election, as well as what sources of news the student’s parents relied on the most. Students were asked whether their parents were liberal (“believe in…equality) or conservative (“resists change”).

After the original story, Broad + Liberty also obtained a screenshot copy of an email allegedly sent by the school principal that distributed the survey to all students at Bayard Rustin. The district, however, did not directly confirm or deny the provenance of the email when asked, and instead only produced the above statement.

That email asked students to complete the survey, mentioned that it was in support of a student Advanced Placement Capstone project, but did not specifically inform students that they could opt out.

One person who responded on Twitter to the district’s statement suggested that a review of the survey is first needed, at a minimum.

“Any true (as defined by the HHS 45 CFR 46) research conducted with humans as participants should go through an Institutional Review Board, does the district have one, or an IRB they utilize?”

Other instances show that districts often go to significant lengths to notify parents of when students will be surveyed.

For example, the Penns Manor district in Indiana County sent out a press release to news outlets in late January to let parents know a questionnaire would be distributed asking students “how they feel about themselves as a learner and how they feel about school.”

The press release also provided contact information for parents with concerns or questions to reach out to the district.

Screenshots of the survey in WCASD reportedly first were circulated on Facebook, a claim which Broad + Liberty has yet to confirm.

But other screenshots were circulated on Twitter by the account “Libs of Tik Tok” which has more than 545,000 followers. That tweet was sent on Thursday, two days after the survey was distributed.



That tweet from LibsofTikTok had already racked up thousands of likes and retweets by the time Broad + Liberty published on Friday.

This article fire appeared in Broad and Liberty.

UPDATE: West Chester Area School District Stays Silent on Allegations of Politicized Surveys Given to Students

2-19 Update: After being contacted by a student in the district who offered context on the survey, we have updated the story to include some of those ideas which we only became aware of thanks to the student who emailed us Saturday afternoon.

Broad + Liberty reached out to get the district’s explanation prior to publication, and also sent district communications officials a link to the story minutes after it was published on Friday. Despite that outreach, Broad + Liberty has yet to be contacted by any official from the district to offer an on-the-record response. *End of update.*

The West Chester Area School District is keeping quiet for the moment about a social media post that has ricocheted across the internet alleging students in the district were given surveys to learn more about their politics and home life.

However, a student in the district said the survey was part of an innocuous student project, in which another student was only gathering information for the purposes of writing a research paper.

An item posted about midday on Thursday by the Twitter account “Libs of Tik Tok” included several screenshots of an online survey with more than two dozen questions.

“To the best of your knowledge, in the most recent 2020 presidential election, who was your mother most likely to vote for?” one such question asked, according to the screenshots.

Broad + Liberty requested comment from the district on Friday, but that email was not returned by the deadline provided. If the district provides comment later, this story will be updated to include it.

Broad + Liberty asked WCASD if they refuted the allegation of the tweet. If the district did not, Broad + Liberty requested information such as the context around the survey, the survey’s purpose, how many students took it, and where the data was kept.

A student who reached out said the survey was part of a research project undertaken by another student. The student who contacted Broad + Liberty said the age and pronouns of the respondent were gathered, but beyond that, no other identifying information was taken, making the surveys essentially anonymous.

The student also said they felt that undertaking the survey would help them support the academic endeavor of the student doing the research project, and that they did not feel forced to answer.

At the time this story was published, the Tweet from @LibsofTikTok had garnered 4,972 likes, and more than 1,750 retweets.

A verified user on Twitter, @joepabike, said in the thread, “Wouldn’t be surprised if they asked about parents’ gun ownership, too 😒

But another verified user suggested the issue was overblown.

“I mean, when I was in 5th grade at a private Catholic school we were asked to draw a picture of who our parents were voting for. I drew Bob Dole. We learned about the election. Everyone survived,” the person tweeted in the thread.

The screenshots on the tweet show questions 19-29, which also include questions such as where the student’s parents got their news.

Question 23 intimates that “resist[ing] change” is a conservative quality, while “believes…in equality” is a left-of-center quality.

Broad + Liberty has interacted successfully with communications officers from the district earlier this week regarding a petition filed by a parent in that district that seeks to remove several WCASD board members by judicial order.

A similar social media controversy erupted in Montgomery County in mid-January when a picture of a teacher taping a mask to a student’s face went viral on social media and was on cable news in less than 48 hours after the images first surfaced.

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The mother of the child in that instance later explained that the media controversy was worse than the experience her child suffered.

“While I appreciate parents and groups alike coming to our defense, as stated above, what this has evolved into is exactly what I wanted to avoid,” the mother said to “Make no mistake, what we are going through because of all of this pales in comparison to the incident itself, which, I will emphasize, was serious in itself.”

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.