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Parent Wants Opt Out: Colorado Department of Education Calls Police

This is stunningly over the top abusive.

by Sean Black

Account of events on March 3, 2014

After sending an email to the principal of my son's school, Roosevelt High School, requesting Noah be opted out of the TCAP, I finally had a conversation with him. During my phone conversation with the principal, he mentioned several times the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) was giving no leeway or waivers to the school for any students in the taking of TCAP. I reminded Mr. Long of Noah's Autism and anxiety and that he was under the care of a physician at Children̢۪s Hospital. Again, Mr. Long repeated that CDE expected every student to take TCAP and despite my request to opt Noah out of TCAP, CDE said this was not an option.

Having heard Mr. Long speak of CDE restrictions several times, I went to the CDE website to see if there was any relevant information. I found the Accountability Performance and Support Division and found a phone number and called. The woman I spoke with did not have any relevant information and took my contact information and indicated someone would call me.

At approximately 5:30, I received a call from John Penn from the CDE. I introduced myself and told him I had a son from Roosevelt High School and was requesting to opt My son out of TCAP. I mentioned the general arguments in opposition to TCAP but then focused on Noah's specific issues. I told Mr. Penn that my son was autistic and that the last time he took CSAP, he mutilated his arms by biting bruises into them. Mr. Penn said that all students were required to take TCAP. He did suggest it could be a possibility for Noah to take an alternative test. I indicated, knowing my son, the alternative assessment was not appropriate.

I repeated that my son was not taking TCAP or any alternative statewide assessment. Mr. Penn, again, repeated that all students in public school were required to take the state assessments. About this time, because of Mr. Penn;s repeated mantra, "It's state law," I said this is why people in Colorado regard the CDE as the enemy. Mr. Penn objected to that characterization, but I said there is nothing the state can gain from testing my son that is worth the risk of putting him through, again, mutilating his arms. As the conversation was nearing a close, I told Mr. Penn the state was not going to compel my son to take the TCAP over my objections. He again repeated it was state law. The conversation closed with my statement that my son is not taking TCAP.

At approximately 6:30, the doorbell rang and Sgt. Mendez from the Johnstown police was at our door. He asked if I was Sean Black, and after affirming that I was, I stepped outside to find out why he was there. He told me that he had spoken to an individual from the CDE that was apparently concerned that my son was in imminent danger of hurting himself. I invited Sgt. Mendez inside to meet my son, who was currently eating his dinner. I also introduced him to my wife, Chris. Sgt. Mendez greeted my son and they had a brief, jovial conversation.

My wife and I were flabbergasted that someone from the CDE would call the police after being told about the testing incident that occurred four years ago. My wife asked me what, exactly, I said to Mr. Penn that indicated our son was in imminent danger that would provoke him to call the police. I recounted the previous conversation and noted that I did use the word 'mutilate', but clearly indicated that this had occurred when he last took the CSAP test. Sgt. Mendez reassured us that he saw nothing to cause him any concern about Noah̢۪s health and safety. He seemed to commiserate with us about the appalling nature of the call by the individual at CDE.

In a follow-up conversation with Sgt. Mendez, he told me the "reporting party" told him that my son was in danger of hurting himself that evening if he had to take the test. My conclusion is someone at CDE thought they could bully and/or intimidate me by sending the police to my home. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only was this a breach of power, and a misuse of public safety resources, it was an attempt of police intimidation.

Please contact me if you care to discuss the matter.

— Sean Black




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