Frantic attempt to stop opt-out leafleting today. A report on the efforts of administrators to block the right of students to refuse to take the PARCC tests.
By Neighbors for Peace and Justice!
Today, a team from Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice went out to the public sidewalk in front of the Edison Regional Gifted Center and the Albany Park Multicultural Academy at dismissal time, to distribute leaflets to parents and students about their right to opt-out of taking the PARCC tests next week.
A principal, vice-principal and another school official came out as children were going to yellow buses, and told one of us that she had to stop giving anything to children in front of the school. The leafletter told her that there was an issue of freedom of speech--for the leafletter and for the students, and that the law said that people who are not blocking the way have the right to distribute on public sidewalks. The three officials said they would call the police, but the leafletter went right on giving out the fliers and explaining what they were about to the students. A little later, three 8th grade girls were discussing the fliers, and the vice principal took them out of their hands. They were taken aback and looked at the leafletter as if to say, “What can we do?”
At another spot on the sidewalk in front of the school, a security guard told me I had to stop leafleting there. I told him it is legal to distribute on the public sidewalk, and that I had a lawyer's letter spelling that out. He said he did not want to see the letter and that I would either have to move or he would call the police. I did not move, and continued leafleting. He radioed inside the school, and told them to send the police because I was leafleting and would not move and, he said, I was threatening him.
I asked the guard his name. James Lane, he said, and that he would spell it for me. He said the spelling is R..a..h..m.
Two police came. The guard told them I had “threatened” him, saying I had told him I would not move.
The police asked me, politely, what the situation was. I told them, and also told them I had a lawyer's letter spelling out how it is legal to distribute on the public sidewalk in front of a school. They read the letter. They did not challenge our right to distribute on the sidewalk. And they told the principal that we were within our rights. At the end of our distribution, I thanked the police for being so professional.
Students and the few parents who were there appeared to be very interested to learn they had a right to refuse to take the PARCC tests. Some began reading the headlines aloud to each other: “”SHOULD STUDENTS HAVE TO TAKE HARMFUL STANDARIZED TESTS? SHOULD PARENTS AND STUDENTS USE THEIR RIGHT TO REFUSE TO TAKE THESE TESTS?”
To sum up, in general, it is important to know our rights, and to also get the names of anyone who tries to interfere with the exercise of those rights, so further action can be taken, if necessary. We didn’t stop what we had come to do, and got the word out to dozens and dozens of people on how harmful the Common Core PARCC tests are.
As additional points, it’s important to figure out how to prevent school officials like these from improperly trying to stop students from refusing to take the test, and threatening or mistreating the op-out students, as happened in some cases last year.
Perhaps we could all ask people from the LSCs to talk to their principals to tell them that they expected her/him to treat parents and students with respect and kindness next week. When we went to the LSC meeting last week at Patrick Henry school, we asked the principal to do this and he agreed--going on record in front of all the members of the LSC. Perhaps other parents in other schools could also let the principal know what they expect--preferably in a group.
Principals need to know that, as public school officials, they are accountable to the public which pays their salaries--and not to the appointed School Board. One principal at another school who was very defensive about letting parents know about the rights of opting-out of PARCC said he would not do so because he was “an agent of the School Board”! We can and should create a climate of opinion about the proper relationship between public officials and the public they are accountable to.
All of us who have become active in the opt-out movement are learning a lot about the way the system works against people--for example, imposing the Common Core and the unacceptable PARCC tests that are not of, by or for working people And we’re all learning about the complex process of what needs to be done to change things around. It would be good if others can share the experiences they are having.