VITAL POLICY – Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Enters Second Phase in Jefferson County, Tennessee Schools, Parents Express Concerns Over Student Surveys

Student surveys are one of the known tools of SEL.

Children as young as 11 years old are being presented with deeply personal survey questions probing the marital and divorce status of their parents, inquiries about family members that are incarcerated, substance abuse, and foster care. Older students recently had to complete a survey in class with questions about the frequency of their medical treatment, church attendance, dental checkups, financial dependance/independence, belief in God, and punishment at different age levels.

SEL surveys often mix legitimate questions with those of a questionable nature, causing parents to ponder the SEL/Survey connection.

My 6th grader from Jeff Middle came home and told us he had to fill out what we told him not to [surveys]. He said he was afraid of getting into trouble or getting a bad grade for not filling it out. He said he was afraid to speak up, but he told his friends. He said one of the questions was, “Are your parents divorced, getting a divorce, or going through one now, or other. He said he put down other” Trish McRae Ambern, JMS Parent

At least one prominent news organization has raised the question of parental consent for the deeply personal questions that students are seeing in the state of Tennessee on surveys. “The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232h requires LEAs [school systems] to notify parents or guardians and to obtain consent – or allow them to opt their child out of – participating in certain school activities. These activities include a student survey, analysis, or evaluation”  Tennessee Students Given Assignments That May Violate Family And Student Privacy – Tennessee Conservative (

Jefferson County Schools signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tennessee Department of Education on March 3, 2022, acknowledging that either “passive” or “active” consent is required for certain types of surveys with sensitive content. A copy of that signed agreement is linked here. (MOU, Dr. Shane Johnston, Former Director of Jefferson County Schools).

Certain parents are reporting that active consent was not obtained; and many more are seeking a non-public option for the education their children, some citing concerns over SEL.

At least 735 school age children in Jefferson County were attending some form of non-public school option as of May 13, 2022; and that number is increasing with parents seeking homeschool and private options. The Jefferson County non-public enrollment report is provided here. (non-public enrollment spreadsheet, Tristen Mullins, JCS)

Georgia Psychologist Dr. Robert Jones (PsyD) explains the fallacy of Social Emotional Learning in his New American interview by explaining that SEL creates a form of artificial or vacant self-esteem in children, basically a hollow structure that is not based on student achievement or accomplishment, a system that allows nearly anything to enter curriculum, including left leaning ideology and political agendas. Later in life, a student may suffer unintended legal consequences because of the psychological labeling that often occurs under SEL practices. Jones’ video interview is linked here. Psychologist Sounds Alarm Over “Social-Emotional Learning” (SEL) (

For background and informational resources on SEL, a link is provided here. VITAL POLICY – OPINION – SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL), a Slippery Slope of Questionable Education Practices Has Arrived in Jefferson County, Tennessee | The Jefferson County Post

Jefferson County Schools entered its second phase of Social Emotional Learning this school year, committing to a $116,000.00 contract on June 25, 2022, to train teachers in SEL. Last year, Jefferson County Schools contracted for SEL training at a cost of $123,600.00, bringing the two-year total to $239,600.00.

David Seal is a retired Jefferson County educator, recognized artist, local businessman, 917 Society Volunteer, 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.