I-Team 10 Investigation: Suing over state tests

Posted at: 04/25/2013 5:44 PM
Updated at: 04/25/2013 7:32 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

A Rush-Henrietta student opted out of the state exams and the district is punishing him for it.

Parents against the Common Core Exams say they do not impact the student's grade or the teacher's evaluation this year, so they told their kids not to take it. A baseball player did that in Rush-Henrietta and got suspended from the team. His parents decided to take the case to court.

The Barbers were trying to get a temporary restraining order that would have halted the punishment against their son, Hunter, for refusing to take the test. But the judge Thursday allowed the discipline to stand.

Melissa Barber and her husband, Craig, say they are disappointed by a judge's ruling against them Thursday, but plan to fight on. They have drawn a line in the sand with the Rush-Henrietta School District and the state over their 14-year-old son's refusal to take the state standardized exams. Earlier this week, they filed the lawsuit.

Melissa Barber said, “What teacher, what principal, what school district would test a child on information that they have not learned.”

Their son, Hunter, is an eighth grader at Burger Middle School. The lawsuit says the district and the state violated his constitutional rights when they disciplined him for refusing to take the exams. The superintendent warned them that Hunter would be considered insubordinate if he opted out. The penalty is no extracurricular activities, that has meant that on the testing days, he's been restricted from playing baseball for the modified team.

Barber said, “He frustrated. He wants to play baseball. It's baseball season. Baseball is his life. He plays it 24-7. But he knows in the back of his mind the bigger picture here.”

The Barbers say their son is a good student, but they felt the state tests are unfair, unnecessary and unduly stressful. They argued that other districts allowed students to opt out without penalty.

Van White, Barbers' attorney, said, “The constitutional challenge for us here is that this is not what all districts are doing, so therefore, all children are not being treated equally under the law. We believe this is a violation of constitutional principle. We also believe it's a violation of the parents right to lead the way for their children."

Barber said, "Hunter has been very brave. Hunter is standing up for what he believes is correct."

In a statement from the district, Rush-Henrietta Superintendent Ken Graham says, “We are pleased with this decision. As we approached the state assessments, we held all students to the same expectations." He went on to say "determining what students know and can do on state assessments is an important part of the process." And "so too is building a culture of respect in our schools. In Rush-Henrietta, we emphasize to students that they should be respectful and ready to learn at all times."

The Barbers' attorney says while the judge denied their request for a restraining order, he did not dismiss the case.He says they will continue to pursue it in federal court and plan to question the superintendent and state education commissioner in depositions.