Tennessee DOE’s Plan for At-Home “Wellbeing Checks” Draws Accusations Of Nanny State


The Tennessee Department of Education has released a toolkit on “child wellbeing checks” along with a corresponding “task force” that critics are saying reeks of an Orwellian nanny state.

“Every citizen in Tennessee with children should be preparing for that visit because education commissioner Penny Schwinn cooked up a Child Wellbeing Task Force with plans to visit every child in Tennessee and collect data on their families. Not only is it a data-collection effort, but the ‘wellbeing liaison’ is required to be a mandated reporter, and you know what that means…child welfare will be knocking next,” PJ Media’s Megan Fox warns.

The DOE is setting aside $1 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to provide regional support for districts in “implementing safe and healthy practices in schools,” as Clarksville Online vaguely describes it.

These efforts are also being supported with a grant from the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide eight regional staff across the state.

“Since we know many children have experienced adversity due to the pandemic, child wellbeing checks are a deliberate way all stakeholders in the community can help ensure the needs of our children are met,” Commissioner Penny Schwinn explained. “I am encouraged by the hard work and dedication of the Task Force and our districts to support kids and their holistic needs.”

Clarksville Online also adds, again rather vaguely, that “The goal of the taskforce [sic] is to help communities come together to check on our kids and support the holistic needs of Tennessee children.”

Fox, on the other hand, describes the toolkit with more specifics:

The more than twenty-page PDF that Schwinn’s minions created is a real exercise in audacity. It must be read to be believed, but two things stood out to me as particularly egregious:

  1. Why are all children, ages birth through 18, included in this wellbeing check? Those who are not of school age are of no concern to the Department of Education and so should not be on their list of children to check on. What does the DOE want with newborns?
  2. The insane language claiming the checks will be “voluntary” and assurances that no one will be forced to take part in this rings hollow with stated procedures that make it very clear the state will not take no for an answer.

If this is the way the DOE is going about conducting these “wellbeing checks,” critics absolutely have a right to be concerned.

Fox explains that, after the uproar, the PDF was taken off the government of Tennessee’s website. This was not, however, before PJ Media obtained a copy, which you can view here.

“It’s a horrendous overreach by government,” Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey told PJ Media. “I’m at a loss that Republicans are promoting a nanny state,” he said. “It’s crazy. Normally I’d see something like this from the Chinese government or Google collecting this kind of data on you and it’s just crazy.”

Griffey explained that he and other legislators have received a deluge of complaints from concerned constituents.

“My email is blowing up today and I haven’t responded yet because I’ve been in touch with fellow legislators who are working through it with the Department of Education and I’m hoping to get answers soon,” he added.

Fox says that Governor Bill Lee, who ran as a Republican, “immediately began pushing through a host of Democrat wish-list items” after being elected and appears to have instigated the “wellbeing checks” idea.

“Tennessee Governor Bill Lee tasked Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn to establish the Child Wellbeing Task Force (Task Force) with the goal of ensuring that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school, and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing,” the first sentence of the document reads.

Griffey says that this was “sprung” on he and his fellow legislators.

“We were in the legislative session for the last three days, why didn’t he consult with the Speaker or the House Education committee?” asked Griffey. “They sprung this on us the next to last day of the legislative session. There wasn’t time to drill down and focus on this issue, but it’s my understanding that they are working through some of the issues today which is why [the document] may have been taken down.”

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