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Seattle School District Suspends Teachers of Children With Severe Disabilities for Honoring Parental Refusals of State Testing

Ohanian Comment: Hats
off to The Parent Empowerment Network, a group
consistent in their determination to stand up
for children. You can support their work, no
matter where you live, by contribution. Any
amount helps--both practically and spiritually.
See address below.

Kudos to teachers who honor their professional
obligations to do what is best for the children
in their care.

NOTE: Seattle Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson is
is a graduate of the Broad Foundation's Urban
Superintendent Academy.


PRESS RELEASE- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUSPENDS TEACHERS OF
CHILDREN WITH SEVERE DISABILITIES FOR HONORING
PARENTAL REFUSALS OF STATE TESTING

Contacts: Juanita Doyon, Director, Parent
Empowerment Network- 253-973-1593

Lenora Stahl, Teacher,
Special Education, Seattle School District-
206-406-2490

Juli Griffith, Teacher,
Special Education, Seattle School District-
206-999-5407

Lisa Boeckh, Parent,
Seattle School District- 206-935-3680

Rachel McKean, Parent,
Seattle School District- 206-354-8984

Michelle Kastle, Parent,
Seattle School District- 206-906-9122


Two Seattle School District teachers have been
suspended for ten days without pay for
following legal requests from parents that
their children not be tested using the
Washington Alternative Assessment System
(WAAS).

テ「弋his is not another Carl Chew case where the
teachers refused to test their students,テ「 said
Juanita Doyon, Director of Parent Empowerment
Network (PEN). テ「弋hese teachers were simply
honoring parental requests, which were given
verbally and later followed up in writing.テ「

Juli Griffith and Lenora Stahl, teachers in a
self-contained, elementary, special education
classroom, expressed their concerns that the
WAAS portfolio system is not appropriate for
their students, in November 2008, first in an
email to the Office of Superintendent of Public
Instruction (OSPI) and then in a letter to the
Seattle School District administrators. They
asked that the District work with them to
develop an appropriate assessment for their
students who have severe disabilities and are
medically fragile.

The WAAS portfolio measures studentsテ「 abilities
to meet grade-level academic standards and does
not measure progress for students with severe
physical and cognitive disabilities who work
each day to learn basic life skills such as
hanging up coats, holding a spoon, attending to
activities, and responding appropriately in
social situations.

テ「廬 am the voice that my students do not have
and I have to stand up for them. My main
concern is what will happen if I refuse to
administer this test to my students,テ「 wrote Ms.
Stahl to Judy Kraft, Alternative Assessment
Specialist at OSPI.

No response was received from the District. An
email response was received from Ms. Kraft.

Refusal on the part of the teachers became
unnecessary, when parents of the six students
who were to be tested told the teachers that
they did not want their children tested using
the WAAS system. Teachers honored the parental
requests and did not begin the near year-long
WAAS process. In January 2009, the teachers
were informed that they were out of compliance
with state and district policy, by Seattle
School District administration. District
administration contended parents were required
to put refusal of state testing in writing.
Parents subsequently wrote refusal letters to
the school. After undergoing two District
disciplinary hearings each, despite the fact
that the District had received refusal letters
from parents of all students involved, Ms.
Griffith and Ms. Stahl received letters (see
attached) on March 2, 2009, stating that they
were suspended without pay for 10 days,
beginning March 4, 2009. Ms. Griffith and Ms.
Stahl have filed appeals of the suspensions
with the District.

State testing policy provides that parents or
students may refuse to take part in state
testing. In a letter addressed by PEN to
Seattle District Superintendent Marie Goodloe-
Johnson, February 20, 2009 (see addendum 1,
below), wording was included from the OSPI 2009
Assessment Coordinatorテ「冱 Handbook, テ「愿「ツヲagency
policy adopted has been that students may
refuse to participate or their parents may
refuse to have their children testedテ「ツヲThe policy
further requires the school to request that the
refusal on the part of either the student or
parent be put into writing by the parent and
kept on file at the school or district officeテ「ツヲ
If any parent is unwilling to put the refusal
in writing, the school should document that the
request was made but the parent would not put
the refusal in writing.テ「

Through Public Disclosure, PEN requested
documents from the Seattle School District
containing policies regarding parental refusal
of testing and requirements for teacher,
parents, and administrators. On March 2, 2009,
PEN received an email from Joy A. Stevens, Sr.
Legal Assistant/Public Records Officer for the
District, stating, テ「愿「ツヲI have begun the process
of locating and gathering the documents you
have requested. I anticipate being able to
give you a response on or before March 30,
2009.テ「

Parents involved are extremely upset that Ms.
Griffith and Ms. Stahl are being punished for
decisions made by parents and that the teachers
who know the needs of their children will not
be in the special education classroom for the
next two weeks. テ「弋his will be a total waste of
time for my son. He will learn nothing during
these two weeks,テ「 said parent Rachel McKean.

Special requirements for the appropriate care
and teaching of the students in question will
make it highly unlikely that the District will
be able to provide appropriate substitute
teachers, particularly under constraints of a
two day notice.

Teachers and parents plan to file separate
complaints with the Office of Civil Rights. The
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits
discrimination or retaliation against
individuals who advocate on behalf of persons
with disabilities (see addendum 2, below). テ「廬n
the next two weeks, PEN will assist parents and
teachers in taking appropriate legal action
against the Seattle School District and,
possibly, the OSPI,テ「 stated Juanita Doyon.

Parent Empowerment Network is a statewide,
nonprofit organization. The mission of PEN is
to provide education and peer training to
parents, teachers, and community members at-
large, in developing strategies to promote
sound policy for quality public schools.

Addendum 1

Parent Empowerment Network
PO Box 494
Spanaway, WA 98387

February 20, 2009

Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson

Seattle Public Schools
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165

Dear Dr. Goodloe-Johnson:

Parent Empowerment Network (PEN) has been
informed by parents and teachers that the
Seattle School District is failing to honor the
right of parents to refuse to allow their
children to take part in the Washington
Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and/or
Washington Alternative Assessment System
(WAAS).

The right of parents to opt their children out
of the state assessment system has been well-
established. State policy is affirmed in the
official WASL Coordinatorテ「冱 Manual, 2009, which
states:

Federal and state laws require public schools
to administer assessments to students enrolled
in the specified grades and subjects, the
assumption apparently being that participation
on the part of the student or approval on the
part of the parent would not be an issue.
Because it is not specifically addressed in the
legislation, agency policy adopted has been
that students may refuse to participate or
their parents may refuse to have their children
tested. The policy further requires the school
to request that the refusal on the part of
either the student or parent be put into
writing by the parent and kept on file at the
school or district office. It is also
recommended that the parent be requested to
include the reason for not wanting the child
tested. If any parent is unwilling to put the
refusal in writing, the school should document
that the request was made but the parent would
not put the refusal in writing.

PENテ「冱 understanding of the situation in
question is as follows:

テつキ Parents of six students in special
education classes at Green Lake Elementary
School informed their childrenテ「冱 teachers that
their children were not to take part in the
WAAS Portfolio Assessment during the 2008-2009
school year.

テつキ Teachers honored the decision and the
rights of the parents and did not begin the
WAAS data collection process.

テつキ School and District administrators
questioned teachers regarding their failure to
begin collection of WAAS-required data for
opted out students.

テつキ School and District administrators
were informed by teachers that the teachers
were acting on the verbal requests of parents
that their children not be assessed using the
WAAS.

テつキ School and District administrators
instructed teachers to incorporate current
curriculum into WAAS assessment for students,
thus disregarding verbal parental refusals.

テつキ Teachers continued to honor parental
refusals of WAAS.

テつキ School and District administrators
informed teachers that written requests were
needed from parents in order for students to be
excused from WAAS.

テつキ School and/or District administrators
did not contact parents, but instead placed
responsibility for obtaining written refusal
from parents solely upon teachers.

テつキ Parents provided written refusal of
assessments to school administrator.

テつキ Seattle School District has formally
informed teachers that a hearing is scheduled
to determine whether or not teachers should be
suspended for two weeks without pay for failing
to administer the WAAS to students whose
parents had verbally notified teachers that
their children were not to take part in the
WAAS Portfolio.

テつキ Seattle School District alleges that
teachers refused to follow written directives
of their building principal to administer the
WAAS.

テつキ Teachers maintain they acted in good
faith and simply honored the verbal requests
made to them by parents and, upon instruction
from the District, requested written refusals
from parents.

テつキ At no time did teachers act on
principle based on merits/demerits of the WAAS
and its appropriateness for severely disabled,
medically fragile students; teachers acted on
their principles in following the legal
requests of parents.

The Office of Superintendent of Public
Instruction document, テ「廩ow Students in Special
Education Participate in State Testing,テ「
provides the following policy for determining
テ「徂ow a student participates in the state
assessment system.テ「

テ「弋he IEP team, which includes a studentテ「冱
parents or guardians, decides which testing
tool to use based on the studentsテ「 needs in
each content area.テ「

Parents involved in the current opt out
situation were acting not only in their role as
guardians of their children but also as members
of the studentsテ「 Individual Education Plan
teams. They decided to remove their students
from the assessment process because they
believe that no part of the current Washington
assessment system is appropriate for their
children with special needs/disabilities.

As with parents of students in regular
education classes who make decisions regarding
their students and the WASL, parents of
children with special needs/disabilities do not
always agree with state and federal assessment
suggestions or requirements for their students.
All parents/guardians of students in Washington
State Public Schools have the same right to opt
their children out of the state assessment
system.

Clearly, parents and their children with
disabilities have rights that often go beyond
those freely offered in the public school
setting. In fact, the U.S. Department of
Education letter to Washington State, approving
the Washington Assessment System, as required
by the No Child Left Behind Act, states that
テ「彗pproval of Washington's standards and
assessment system under the ESEA is not a
determination that the system complies with
Federal civil rights requirements, including
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title
IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section
504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II
of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and
requirements under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act.テ「

As an organization, PEN recommends that parents
opt out their children from state testing,
whether children are to be subjected to WASL or
WAAS. We do so because we believe that
Washingtonテ「冱 current assessment system fails to
uphold the civil rights of students and fails
to uphold the requirements of the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Despite
their right to reject the Washington assessment
system for their children, parents are often
coerced or even harassed by school officials
until parents ultimately give in and allow the
school to assess their students. In the current
case, teachers simply accepted and honored the
parentsテ「 decision.

In May 2008, a Seattle School District teacher
refused to administer the WASL to his 6th grade
class. The action taken by Seattle School
District in the case of this teacherテ「冱 refusal
was to suspend the teacher for eight days
without pay. The Seattle School District seems
to be equating the case of Green Lake
Elementary teachers complying with state policy
by honoring parental refusals to the 2008 case
of a teacher refusing to administer the WASL.
In doing so, the Seattle School District is
drawing a parallel where none exists.

In 2008, teacher Carl Chew refused to
administer WASL as a matter of principle. In
2009, teachers at Green Lake Elementary are
following state policy and honoring parental
refusals.

State policy requires only verbal refusal on
the part of the parent or student, leaving it
to テ「徼he schoolテ「 to request written
documentation from the parent or otherwise
document refusal in writing, if the parent
chooses not to comply with a request for a
written refusal. Unless the Seattle School
District has developed and provided a policy
requiring that teachers request a written
refusal from parents, PEN contends that the
school building administrator or assessment
coordinator holds responsibility for requesting
and obtaining, or otherwise generating, written
documentation of parental/student refusal of
state assessments.

Regardless of school district policy, simple
failure by school personnel to obtain written
refusal from the parents does not warrant
suspension without pay or any other penalty or
record of wrongdoing in the personnel file. In
the very suggestion that a two week suspension
is warranted, the Seattle School District
threatens the rights of the severely disabled
and medically fragile students who are in the
care of these teachers by potentially removing
any hope of provision for a Free and
Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for a
period of two weeks, without due cause.

Further, PEN contends that the Seattle School
District has breached parental rights and
assessment protocol by directing teachers to
assess students against the will and direction
of parents. Because of the serious nature of
this situation and the possible breach of state
and federal regulations and protocols by the
Seattle School District, PEN suggests that an
investigation by the Puget Sound Education
Service District may be in order.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this
matter. A hard copy of this letter will follow
through US Mail service. Please see attached
Public Disclosure Request.

Sincerely,

Juanita Doyon, Director
Parent Empowerment Network

cc Randy Dorn, Rob McKenna, Mary Lindquist,
Doug Gill, Jeannette Bliss, Gloria Mitchell,
Cheryl Grinager, Joan Bell, Alan Sutliff, Mary
Bass, Sherry Carr, Cheryl Chow, Michael DeBell,
Peter Maier, Harium Martin-Morris, Steve
Sundquist, Jeffry Finer


February 20, 2009

Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson

Seattle Public Schools
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165

Under Public Disclosure, Parent Empowerment
Network requests that the Seattle School
District provide:

1. Copies of all District policies regarding
parental refusal of state assessments,
including all policies relating to parents,
teachers, building administrators, and district
administrators.

2. Copies of all documents, memos, and emails
regarding the dissemination of refusal policies
and requirements to administrators, schools,
teachers, and parents.

Thank you.

Juanita Doyon, Director
Parent Empowerment Network
253-973-1593


Addendum 2

From the Americans with Disabilities Act
Sec.36.206 Retaliation or coercion.

(a) No private or public entity shall
discriminate against any individual because
that individual has opposed any act or practice
made unlawful by this part, or because that
individual made a charge, testified, assisted,
or participated in any manner in an
investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the
Act or this part.

(b) No private or public entity shall coerce,
intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any
individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, or
on account of his or her having exercised or
enjoyed, or on account of his or her having
aided or encouraged any other individual in the
exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or
protected by the Act or this part.

(c) Illustrations of conduct prohibited by this
section include, but are not limited to:

(1) Coercing an individual to deny or limit the
benefits, services, or advantages to which he
or she is entitled under the Act or this part;

(2) Threatening, intimidating, or interfering
with an individual with a disability who is
seeking to obtain or use the goods, services,
facilities, privileges, advantages, or
accommodations of a public accommodation;

(3) Intimidating or threatening any person
because that person is assisting or encouraging
an individual or group entitled to claim the
rights granted or protected by the Act or this
part to exercise those rights; or

(4) Retaliating against any person because that
person has participated in any investigation or
action to enforce the Act or this part.

— Press Release
Parent Empowerment Network

2009-03-03

http://www.parentempowermentnetwork.org

WA


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