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California School Officials Broke the Law By Forcing Children to Take Common Core Tests, Lawsuit Claims

( [email protected] ) Sep 21, 2015 05:37 PM EDT
School district officials in Southern California broke the law by failing to inform parents about their rights to decline involvement in Common Core State Standards initiative testing, a new lawsuit is alleging.
This photo was posted on the Facebook page of Kelly Poynter, mother of the girl, with the caption: ''I’m a photographer. This is my daughter…and this is the first photo of her that I have ever hated. #commoncore'' Facebook

School district officials in Southern California broke the law by failing to inform parents about their rights to decline involvement in Common Core State Standards initiative testing, a new lawsuit is alleging.

The Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal organization dedicated to religious liberty and parental rights, filed a lawsuit last Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Concerned Parents of California, notes a press release from the group. 

The lawsuit charges that Walnut Valley Unified School District failed comply with state law and regulations requiring them to inform parents of the right to decline participation by their children in statewide assessments.

"Just like everyone else, school districts must follow the law," said PJI attorney Michael Peffer, who is the lead attorney in this case. "They may not agree with it, but they cannot ignore it. The statutes and regulations in this area are clear and unambiguous. The district doesn't get to pick and choose which rules it will follow."

The controversial Common Core State Standards program, which is being discontinued in some states already, recently revealed that only 44 percent of California students met the standards in English, and only 1 student in 3 in math.

"As we've just been reminded, the implementation of Common Core continues to be a disaster, and many parents want no part of it," said PJI President Brad Dacus. "Parents have the right and responsibility to do what is in their children's best interests, and California school districts have the legal obligation to make sure parents know their options."

The lawsuit argues that K-12 schools "are required to apprise parents and guardians of their right under the law to request that their child be excused from statewide assessment testing."

However, notices from schools to parents about the 2015 tests uniformly failed to mention the requirement, thus depriving the "petitioner and its members of their rights to have legal notice that their children may be excused."

Out of 3.2 million students statewide, about 19,000 had parental exemptions from the tests, according to preliminary estimates. While less than 1 percent of students opted out of the tests in California, other states have had more objections. In Washington, about half of the high school juniors refused to take the test, and about 20 percent of New York students opted out of the tests.

Pacific Justice said it previously confronted Calabasas High School officials after one manager threatened to punish students who didn't participate in Common Core testing. However, the school's principal reversed course after receiving a demand letter from PJI.

The Common Core State Standards were adopted in full by 45 states and the District of Columbia several years ago. However, support for the curriculum began to diminish when critics from across the political spectrum expressed concerns about the "authorship and content of some of the standards and Core-aligned tests, and the federal government's involvement in the Core," the Washington Post notes.

Among those critical of the standards is Republican presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

"You think the math standards are bad, what will happen once the federal government starts setting the standards for how American history is taught to our kids?" he demanded. "Under the Obama administration, the instruction would not be about American exceptionalism; it would be all about how the United States causes victimization."

Another GOP hopeful, Dr. Ben Carson, also expressed his negative views regarding Common Core during a speech given at the at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Washington, D.C in February.

"We need to recognize education is the great liberator in our country. No one has to be a victim," Carson said. "The best education is the education that is closest to home and I've found that for instance homeschoolers do the best, private schoolers next best, charter schoolers next best, and public schoolers worst." 

He continued,"Common Core is not school choice. I do believe in standards, but those standards obviously are set by parents and people who do homeschooling or they wouldn't be doing so well."