VITAL POLICY – OPINION – SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL), a Slippery Slope of Questionable Education Practices Has Arrived in Jefferson County, Tennessee

Jefferson County Schools Spent $123,600.00 on Social Emotional Learning Staff Training in July 2021- This in-depth article results from alerts sounded by concerned Jefferson County Teachers.

This article is intended as a dire warning of how Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is sweeping across the nation, infecting public schools with objectionable and controversial materials and practices, how it is presented to school officials and parents, the methods employed by SEL practitioners, lobbyists, and special interest groups, and most importantly what SEL evolves into if allowed to incubate within a school system. Social and Emotional Indoctrination in Schools – Intellectual Takeout

You (the taxpayer) are shouldering the cost of SEL via local, state, and federal funding; and the funding bandwagon is a well-oiled machine driven by lobbyists. On the state level, over 60 million dollars per year is expended by lobbyists to influence Tennessee legislators and administration bureaucrats; and that is the reported amount. It is believed that much more is spent by taxpayer funded lobbyists that goes unreported. Special Interest Groups Spend $60 Million A Year To Curry Favor With Tennessee Legislators – Tennessee Conservative (

On the federal level, congress was successfully lobbied to place amendments on various bills to enable school systems to use ESSER and a wide variety of federal education funds to pay for SEL, mainly under the false pretense of learning loss recovery. Blue states blasted for ‘appalling’ move to use COVID relief money to fund CRT: ‘A trojan horse’ | Fox News

School systems and their administrators are trained by SEL providers to siphon funding from legitimate federal education programs such as Title I, Title II, Title IV, GEAR UP (intended for college readiness), ESSER, and even Perkins Vocational Education funding (appropriated for career and technical job training). Perkins vocational money is touted by SEL providers as a go-to funding source when Covid-19/ESSER funds dry up. This was a discovery made from a public records request of Jefferson County, Tennessee Schools (October 2021). Please note the phrases in the following training e-mail to Jefferson County Schools: “mental health” and “transformation in Jefferson County” and “systemic implementation”. (Link to PDF of Email 3/30/2021)

SEL is not the wholesome sugar cookie that is being sold to school systems as a fix-all for student mental health, attendance, student behavior, staff retention, classroom management, and academic success. It is a smokescreen designed by well-funded globalists to change the face of public education to suit their agenda. As SEL evolves over time within a given school system, it becomes what experts call “transformative SEL”, placing students in a position to make collective group decisions, abandoning the traditional idea of student discipline and personal responsibility. Advanced stages of certain SEL programs can reach a level of promoting collectivism, socialism, and in the worst cases, Marxism. SEL is a vehicle for extreme leftist ideology. Listen to the explanation by Dr. James Lindsey in the link provided here. You searched for social emotional learning – New Discourses

When SEL is first introduced, it is often billed as a classroom management tool, a method of teaching students to make good decisions, methods often touted by guidance counselors and school psychologists as a way of dealing with troubled and distracted students.

In reality, SEL can be used as a mechanism to circumvent curriculum standards and certain safeguards imposed by the legislative process, making it possible to inject objectionable content into classrooms including a wide variety of critical education theories. EXPOSED: Tennessee Schools Flagrantly Breaking Anti-CRT Law – PJ Media

Parents, teachers, school administrators, governing school boards, and concerned citizens are sometimes purposely bypassed when SEL materials and processes are delivered to students from third party providers via web links, many of which are shielded from accountability and public viewing by disclaimers, confidentiality agreements, claims of intellectual property rights, and outright concealment. SEL providers do this for good reason; they know their methodology can create a stealthy delivery path for objectionable content to students. As this Tennessee Stands video points out, parents and public policy groups are discovering the truth about SEL. Ep 21: Social Emotional Learning in our schools and the usurping of parental rights. – YouTube

Practitioners of SEL employ student surveys. Students are sometimes presented with leading survey questions concerning their exposure to and perception of bullying, harassment, sexuality, personal preferences, religion, and even political beliefs. Parents Voice Concerns Over Hamilton County Schools Decision To Administer Social Emotional Learning Surveys – Tennessee Conservative (

Often such surveys are masquerading as “School Safety Surveys”. In the most extreme cases, student surveys, and their loaded questions, are used to make students aware of their vulnerabilities, causing students to be more susceptible to questionable and objectionable content and practices.

In order to give students surveys that deal with sensitive topics, school systems must sign an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Education, template agreement linked here: 2021-22 Tennessee School Climate Measurement MOU (

School systems are also required to obtain either “passive” or “active” parental consent for certain surveys; but parents are not always given access to survey questions without first making a formal records request. The Tennessee Conservative News examined this issue as it relates to Jefferson County, Tennessee schools, coverage linked here: School Climate Survey Voluntary But Not Available To Parents In Jefferson County – Tennessee Conservative (

As a matter of prevention, experts advise that parents should never consent to allowing students to complete a school-sponsored survey at school, at home, or on-line.

SEL is a tool of globalists and left-leaning extremists; and it is showing up in many Tennessee school systems and in university teacher education programs. As parents and public policy advocacy groups peel the layers off the education/political onion, they are discovering that SEL seeds were planted by well-funded organizers far removed from their local schools. SEL is a globalist plan to transform the traditional role of public schools, abandoning academic fundamentals for social engineering and intrusive interventions on the private life of families and students. The indoctrination of our children does not stop until we make it stop. – Tennessee Stands

A Sevier County, Tennessee citizen, activist, and parent learned that Social and Emotional Learning had been used in her school system’s classrooms for nearly a decade. As she reports, loopholes were discovered in the “Textbook Transparency Act” and certain other strategies were employed by elected officials and bureaucrats to prevent concerned parents from accessing materials, web-links, and documents, essentially a shell game of information. This is her statement and contribution to this article.

On March 21, 2022, the Sevier County School Board approved a bid to purchase new Social Emotional Learning curriculum that relies heavily on digital content. School officials confirmed that the specific curriculum approved was called Second Steps by Committee for Children. This curriculum is the same that was approved in Loudoun County, Virginia to which those parents voiced strong opposition. Second Steps is used in many other school districts across the country. It was previously approved for use in one Utah school district. After parents spent 30 hours reviewing the curriculum and specifically notating their concerns, the Utah school district voted to remove the curriculum from use. They emphasized several themes within the middle school curriculum such as promotion of LGBTQ lifestyles, critical race theory (CRT), social justice activism, bullying/harassment thru a racial lens and positioning parents as out of touch with their child’s life (8th Grade Review-Second Step (by topic) from Lisa (

Upon in-person review at Sevier County Schools central office, several concerned citizens and parents confirmed that this curriculum approved for Sevier County was the same as that approved in Utah and Virginia as well. Most shockingly, citizens learned that Sevier County schools have been using Second Steps SEL curriculum since 2013 in grades Kindergarten thru 5th. This new curriculum, which has been tested as a “pilot program” in several Sevier schools since approximately 2019, would now include grades 6th thru 8th. Due to loopholes in the Tennessee “Textbook Transparency Act,” the district was not required to disclose this curriculum on their district website, though they may have chosen to if they wanted. This was the first instance in which we realized that Sevier County schools has an issue with transparency.

In order to view the Second Steps material, taxpayers must first make an appointment for no longer than one hour, while supervised by school administrators. Since the curriculum is completely digital, it is all viewed on a computer, which only the administrators are allowed to touch. Citizens were told that the material was copyrighted and therefore not subject to state public records requests. After a few weeks of discussion, citizens were given a login to view the content of the material although teacher guides and handouts were omitted. Parents should not have to jump through such hoops to simply see the curriculum that will be presented to their children.

Second Steps has also previously stoked controversy over their use of third-party websites. The controversial website, “” was used as a resource that teachers were encouraged to share with students. This website discusses homosexual relationships, sexual intimacy, abusive relationships, and abortion. It also encourages readers to go to another website, This website heavily discusses homosexual lifestyles, gender identity and abortion. While Scarleteen was never a direct resource given, Second Steps officially removed all references to the “Love Is Respect” website from their curriculum in September 2021. However, as this curriculum was being used as a pilot program in Sevier schools since approximately 2019, there are unanswered questions as to if this website was ever mentioned to students by the guidance counselors who teach the curriculum. When parents asked for copies of lesson plans for SEL to show if these resources were included in the lessons, they were told that the lesson plans had already been destroyed.

If the SEL curriculum alone isn’t frustrating enough, the use of supplemental resources by means of virtual libraries has also been a hot topic as well. A concerned parent discovered that her Sevier County public school student had access to a virtual library known as Epic! via their student chrome book. This library has over 40,000 titles and many of them present liberal ideologies concerning homosexuality, racism and religion. Parents were told at the June 2022 school board meeting that the application had been removed from all student chrome books due to “impending legislation.” While it was not specified which legislation they were referring to, two bills were passed this spring by the Tennessee General Assembly which affect library books in public schools. Senate Bill 2407, also known as the “Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022,” requires each public school to maintain, and post on the school’s website, a list of the materials in the school’s library collection. Additionally, House Bill 2454, which regulates obscene digital and online materials made available to public school students.

The most frustrating issue currently at hand is the lack of concern demonstrated by the elected members of the Sevier County School Board. Several parents spoke of their concerns with the Second Steps curriculum as well as the Epic! virtual library at the May 2022 school board meeting. They gave specific examples from specific lessons within the new content that they had viewed in person at central office, as well as examples of controversial books from the Epic! app. Sevier County schools came with a pre-written statement that was read by the school district’s assistant superintendent, Tony Ogle. Despite the parents’ research and very credible examples and evidence, the school statement claimed that such concerns were nothing more than “social media misinformation.” School board members have still refused to publicly acknowledge parents’ concerns even after more parents spoke at this past week’s school board meeting.

More issues regarding transparency were brought forward at the June 2022 school board meeting where one individual who had done an open records request for emails related to the purchase of SEL curriculum discovered that the purchase order for the Second Steps material was completed in January 2022, while the school board did not officially approve its purchase until March 2022.

To know the intent of adding SEL to our children’s education, it is absolutely necessary to know who is behind this curriculum. Committee for Children is a Bill Gates funded organization (Committee for Children | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Another website that is promoted as a resource to be used by teachers is “Learning for Justice” (Learning for Justice | Education Resources. This website shows obvious liberal bias towards issues concerning racism and homosexuality. Many questions arise from such connections. How is it possible that the most conservative county in Tennessee is using taxpayer dollars to purchase public school curriculum from companies with obvious liberal bias and clear goals to push their equity agendas?”

Kelli O’Connor, Concerned Parent, Activist, and Resident of Sevier County, Tennessee

Author’s Note

A group of highly concerned Jefferson County teachers alerted this columnist to the SEL issue, and the amount of public funds expended by Jefferson County Schools on what they characterize as a “waste of money and a departure from academic fundamentals”. Jefferson County School System is in the very early stages of implementing Social and Emotional Learning, the most innocent appearing phase of the SEL process. As this article and its sources contend, SEL doesn’t remain innocent for long. Do not just take this columnist’s word for the information presented. You are urged to review the sources of information linked herein.



Sinister SEL: Part 1 – YouTube

Dangers of Social Emotional Learning | Purple for Parents (

Mo. AG Uncovers Systemic Use Of Racist Curricula In Public Schools (

Utah Parents United – Home

Justices Ask Whether Left’s Wokeness Should Be the Only Religion Allowed in Public Schools – Intellectual Takeout

David Seal is a retired Jefferson County educator, recognized artist, local businessman, and current Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. He has also served Jefferson County as a County Commissioner and is a lobbyist for the people on issues such as eminent domain, property rights, education, and broadband accessibility on the state level.

Source: Jefferson County Schools Spent $123,600.00 on Social Emotional Learning Staff Training in July 2021- This in-depth article results from alerts sounded by concerned Jefferson County Teachers.