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As Long as We Remember...

January 13, 2017

An About Face by School Board Members

Cindy A. Rose

On August 24, 2016. The Frederick County Board of Education passed an amendment to Assessment Policy 511 recognizing the right of students to refuse – and parents could bar their children – from participating in state mandated testing.


The assessments of concern are the PARCC (Partnership for Assessments of Readiness for College and Career), MSA (Maryland State Assessments) and others mandated for “accountability” purposes.


It was a big day for parents (and teachers) to finally have our school board recognize parents can refuse on behalf of their children. It’s common sense.


I personally was all over social media and on the radio. Never once during the celebration and discussion did any member of the Board of Education, nor Frederick County Public Schools administrators, come out and say “Excuse me, you misunderstand. We aren’t saying ‘parents’ can refuse, children still have to do the refusing.” Not once.


Needless to say, I was shocked when I sent in my letter refusing for my daughter to participate, to get a response saying I could not so refuse, that she had to refuse personally. Excuse me?


The policy is clear, especially in the context of the documentation and conversations. Policy 511.6 states in part: “may be barred from doing so by their parents.” Does “bar” mean something other than my prohibiting participation?


Board President Brad Young and Vice President Elizabeth Barrett said it was not the policies intention to let parents refuse “for” their children. Huh?


A quick check of FCPS board documents and the Agenda Item details from the April 20, 2016, May 11, 2016, and May 25, 2016, meetings all corroborate my and the public’s understanding. The draft language reflects the tenor of the public conversations: “Refusals to participate in the State – or federally-mandated assessments – either by parents who refuse on behalf of their students or by students themselves…”


A quick check of the April 20, 2016, archived video of the board meeting confirms via Elizabeth Barrett’s own words: “… make sure students and parents who may speak in collaboration with or on behalf of their children…”


The evidence is clear that what was created was recognition of a parent’s right to refuse, or in their preferred words, “bar a child from participating.


It seems to be now that Board of Education elections are over, there is no need to be on the side of parent’s rights, civil rights, or what’s right in general.


It’s important for parents and voters to know, only Colleen Cusimano and April Miller have come out and affirmatively said the policy was indeed a recognition of a parent’s right to bar their children from participating; that no teacher, nor test administrator, etc., would go to the child directly for refusal.


When asked directly about this question, Mr. Young and Ms. Barrett said parents could not refuse for their children. Joy. Schaeffer and Ken Kerr didn’t respond. Make your own inference. Mine is that they agree with Mr. Young and Ms. Barrett, or they lack the fortitude to take a stand.  Neither position is flattering.


Michael Bunitsky responded, but didn’t answer, the question, so I assume he also believes parents cannot refuse for their children.


If you care at all about civil liberties, there is a Board of Education election coming up in 2018.  If Brad Young or Elizabeth Barrett’s names are on it, I would give them a pass. Their about-face on such an important issue makes them untrustworthy. A right they recognize today, may not be a right they recognize tomorrow.


As always, I continue to call for the resignation of Superintendent Teresa Alban.  Her loyalties are with corporate reformers, not parents, teachers and students.


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