As parents of thousands of students across the nation are refusing the standardized tests aligned with the Common Core standards, state education officials are digging in their heels and attempting to use authority and, in some cases, intimidation to keep test participation rates up and parents in line.
Grassroots groups of parent activists who have been refusing the Common Core-aligned tests for their children have cited the due process clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution – upheld numerous times by the U.S. Supreme Court – with the understanding that children belong to their parents, not the state.
In South Carolina, a memo forwarded to Breitbart News that state Superintendent Molly Spearman sent to district superintendents regarding “Testing Requirements for All Students,” stated:
There is no statutory provision for parents to opt their children out of testing. The State, districts, and schools are required by state and federal law to administer assessments to all public school students. Please ensure that your district and school leaders are consistently communicating that the schools’ obligation is to administer tests to all students. Because of that obligation, it would not be appropriate to provide alternative activities for students in lieu of testing.
“Parents are required to make children of the appropriate age attend school. S.C. Code … 59-65-20,” the memo continued. “Therefore, it is not appropriate to suggest that parents ‘opt out’ by keeping their students at home on testing days.”
The section of the law referred to in the memo, the “Penalty for failure to enroll or cause child to attend school” section, specifically states:
Any parent or guardian who neglects to enroll his child or ward or refuses to make such child or ward attend school shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than fifty dollars or be imprisoned not more than thirty days; each day’s absence shall constitute a separate offense; provided, the court may in its discretion suspend the sentence of anyone convicted of the provisions of this article.
At a local press conference, Tamra Hood, a member of South Carolina Parents Involved in Education (SCPIE) who attended the April 16th meeting of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, said that, during the meeting, the State Education Department’s Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Carpentier specifically threatened parents with “criminal accountability” and reports to police if they refused the test for their children.
Hood reported Carpentier said that parents could be charged with truancy and could spend 30 days in jail if even a single day of testing is missed. Additionally, Hood said Carpentier noted during the meeting that groups that encourage parents to refuse the Common Core-aligned tests could be charged with aiding and abetting a crime.
Sheri Few, a SCPIE leader who was a candidate for state superintendent of education last year, told Breitbart News, “Carpentier’s egregious threats to districts, parents and students are inexcusable.”
In an email exchange with Breitbart News, Dino Teppara, director of the Public Information Office for the South Carolina Department of Education, responded for Carpentier, stating, “Let me preface them by first noting that the statements made in response to Ms. Carpentier’s comments were issued by an organization led by a candidate who ran for state superintendent of education last year. So they should be taken in that context.”
Teppara denied all of the statements Hood reported Carpentier made at the meeting.
Regarding a statement attributed to Carpentier that school districts are not to give in to parental requests to refuse the tests, Teppara said:
No. Ms. Carpentier said that schools have a statutory obligation to administer the tests. She was providing guidance on schools’ duties. She specifically stated that the statutes refer to our obligations to administer tests, and make no reference to whether parents have a right to refuse the tests for their students. Moreover, there is no way schools administering tests can force a student to take the test, or do their best on the test. The statutes address what the education system must do in connection with tests, and are silent on what parents may or may not do.
In addition, there is no express “opt out” provision in our state or federal statutes.
To Hood’s statement that Carpentier said that school districts should deny all parental requests for alternative accommodations for students, and keep children refusing the test in a test room in hopes they will go against their parents’ wishes and take the test, Teppara said, “No. Ms. Carpentier said that schools had no obligation to supply alternative educational activities for students because of their statutory obligation to administer the tests.”
Teppara also denied that Carpentier said if a child is kept out of school on testing days, parents can be held criminally accountable and can be reported to police.
“No,” he said. “She simply noted the truancy provisions in state statutes.”
Regarding jail time for parents, Teppara again denied Carpentier made a statement to that effect.
“No. … There is no automatic jail stay in our criminal statutes, and of course, she never would have said that,” he responded.
“The burden of proof is on South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) to prove that parents can’t refuse–not that tests have to be administered–which SCDE hasn’t done despite numerous parents’ requests to do so,” Hood told Breitbart News. “Lack of an ‘opt out’ clause in South Carolina is irrelevant because there is no law that requires every student to take a certain test.”
Hood also noted that Carpentier “strongly pressured school districts not to go under the 95 percent test participation rate needed for Title I funding.”
“New York hasn’t received any such ‘sanction’ and they have over 150,000 students refusing testing this year,” she added. “South Carolina will not lose federal funding because we were granted a waiver to No Child Left Behind from the Obama administration.”
Hood charged that Spearman is hiding behind Carpentier, and that both have been hiding from parents who request information about test refusal.
“Instead of taking the lead, firing Carpentier, and instructing parents of their right to refuse, Ms. Spearman has taken a backseat, gone MIA, and tried to blame Sheri Few,” she asserted. “By keeping Carpentier employed, she is hypocritically advocating for a bully. Because Ms. Spearman has not stood up for parents and the children she has promised to serve, she can be considered complicit and should lose her position.”
“It is truly a sad state of affairs when our State Superintendent of Education’s office is willing to lie to cover up their mistakes, thereby accusing innocent parents of lying instead,” Few said in a statement to Breitbart News.
Rather than lying about what was said and attempting to disparage the character of those who exposed the truth, it would be wiser for Superintendent Spearman to make a public statement denouncing the threats made by her COO, apologize to the parents of South Carolina, and fire Ms. Carpentier.
Few said Carpentier’s attitude reflects the sentiment of education elitists who have no regard for parents and treat them in a condescending manner.
“This shameful attitude, and the blatant disregard for parental concerns, is what motivated the movement to refuse the test,” she continued. “The simple fact is, the test that parents are refusing is aligned with Common Core, and most parents are motivated to refuse because the system continues to ignore their disapproval of the Common Core standards.”