FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 20, 2014
More information contact:
NYS Allies for Public Education www.nysape.org
NYSAPE Calls for End to Verbal Refusal Policies
NYSAPE encourages school districts to handle student test refusals in a developmentally appropriate and humane manner that safeguards student dignity while respecting parental rights. To that end, NYSAPE applauds the recent efforts of many districts to revise their “sit and stare” policies. However, parents continue to express concern that some districts will require students to verbally refuse the tests on each day of testing, even when parents have submitted a letter of refusal ahead of time.
The NYS department of Education has issued no guidance on this issue. Requiring a student to give a verbal refusal even though a parent or guardian has already submitted their child’s test refusal in writing is strictly a local school district decision. Jessica McNair, a New Hartford public school parent says, “When a parent has made the decision that his or her child will refuse a state exam, requiring the student verbally refuse as well is not only coercive and humiliating, but a redundant, unnecessary tactic that causes a child undue stress.”
“School districts that require students to verbally refuse a state test are not only engaging in a developmentally inappropriate but a potentially discriminatory act that limits access to test refusal for students with disabilities.” said Bianca Tanis, a New Paltz public school parent.
In fact, the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) stipulates that no student shall be subjected to discrimination based on, among other things, a disability. Furthermore, children with emotional, physical, cognitive, developmental or speech and language disabilities are legally entitled to equal access to any practice afforded to their non-disabled peers and a required verbal refusal may violate this right.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” [29 U.S.C. §794(a), 34 C.F.R. §104.4(a)].
“As a parent of a child with autism, a language processing and communication disorder, I find it unconscionable to require any child to verbally refuse the test, especially a child with a disability. A parent or guardian’s note should suffice. Abusive, undignified policies should be stopped immediately, if not the administration should be replaced with more caring, competent people,” said Lisa Rudley, Ossining public school parent and founding member NYSAPE.
Katie Zahedi, principal of Linden Avenue Middle School said, “Public schools are charged with the care and protection of minor students. No teacher or principal should be forced to violate this trust by placing students squarely in the middle of a parent’s efforts to resist a practice that they deem harmful to their child.”
NYSAPE calls on superintendents and Boards of Education across NYS to assure parents that a parent letter of refusal is sufficient and that no verbal refusal from a child will be solicited or required in order to refuse a state test.