MADISON — A teacher at Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School demanded students take a survey on whether they had received a COVID-19 vaccination — and if not, why not.
That’s according to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which has issued a letter to Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Superintendent, Keith Posley, and Rufus King High School Principal, Phyllis Anderson, warning the teacher’s actions violate federal law.
Geometry teacher Kara Grier issued the survey on the first day of class, the Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm said in a statement. Students couldn’t skip the question on the survey.
“Although we are meeting face to face at this time, COVID is still very much a thing people worry about. Have you been vaccinated? If not, please give a brief reason why,” the survey question states, adding, “No judgement.”
“MPS must make clear that teachers cannot require students to answer questions about their political or religious beliefs or to divulge discussions with their physicians, including why they have or have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. Schools need to be mindful that federal law protects student privacy rights,” said Katherine Spitz, WILL associate counsel.
The question is not only highly inappropriate for a a math class, it’s also against the law, the letter notes.
Federal law protects students from being required to participate in any sort of “survey, analysis, or evaluation” that divulges information concerning, among other things, political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; legally recognized privileged relationships, such as that between a physician and a patient; and religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent. In other words, a geometry teacher has no right to solicit this information from a student.
In addition to federal law, the vaccination question violates Milwaukee Public Schools’ own policies on these matters. MPS’ “Parent/Guardian Bill of Rights” specifically provides that parents have the right to “read surveys and questionnaires that may be used with your child.” MPS’s handbook also reflects the right to privacy in one’s medical records.
WILL is urging MPS Superintendent Posely to ensure that similar incidents like this one do not occur in the future. WILL asked Posely to notify every teacher in the district via email that surveys and questions of this nature violate the law and are unacceptable, and that he confirm with WILL that he has done so to avoid further action.
“We are hopeful that this breach of student privacy was a one-time mistake and will not be repeated by this teacher or by any other educator in the district,” the letter sates.
In her LinkedIn account, the geometry teacher says she is “deeply committed to improving children’s lives and I am continuously striving to lead by example.”