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.
2-22 Update: The school district has pledged to review its policies on surveying students and says all data collected has been deleted. *End of Updates*
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.
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 NorthPennNow.com. “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.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the North Penn school district was in Bucks County. It is in Montgomery.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports