OPT OUT NEWS: 'CPS Opt Out Freak Out Still in Full Swing' reports a fun-filled Chicago blogger

One of the most stunning characterizations of recent Chicago Public Schools behavior comes three weeks after the most vigorous opt out movement in U.S. history began with the onset of the ISAT testing program on March 3, 2014. Headlining her commentary "Opt Out Freak Out Still In Full Swing," the blogger Chicago Public Fools nailed it in a March 24 posting. But why summarize further? Below is the full text:

Although Joe Moriarity is not the chief lawyer for the Chicago Board of Education, Moriarity is behind the attempt by CPS lawyers, whose ranks continue to be expanded, to divide-and-conquer teachers by interviewing teachers about who has been encouraging Opt Out. Despite the facts that CTU has yet to decide to counter the Board's unconstitutional attempt to order teachers not to talk with parents about the rights of parents, Opt Out continues expanding. Substance photo by George N Schmidt.Teacher misconduct in CPS? By South Side CPS Mom, today [March 24, 2014] at 6:43 am

The ISAT may be over, but guess what? The ISAT Opt-Out Freak Out is still in full swing! In fact, it's growing.

No, CPS can't let this die a quiet death. They can't walk away looking bested. They can't let it look like parents got away with preventing their children from taking a meaningless moribund test. They can't tolerate families knowing how much of their children's education in CPS is tied to standardized test after standardized test. And above all they want to punish those who opted out--parents, children, and teachers, so that nobody makes the mistake of questioning CPS authori-tay again.

CPS is lurching from one extreme action to another. Threatening here, intimidating there.

And Thursday [March 20, 2014], they reached a new low.

They sent CPS staffers from the legal office to Drummond [Montessori Elementary School] to interrogate children. Parents didn't like that when they found out. Oh, were they surprised! Because of course, CPS didn't seek parental permission or even bother with notifying families that this might happen. Parents heard after it had already been happening for some time. When they called to insist their child not be interviewed, the school told them, well, we can't guarantee they haven't already been questioned. Um, sorry?

The media got a hold of this story right away and three articles went up before the day was out, from DNAinfo, Catalyst, and the Sun-Times.

Here is the scenario in brief, occurring on Thursday and Friday:

A 3rd grader is pulled from class and brought to the principal's office where he sits down with a stranger with the door closed and is asked questions about his teacher, how he learned about opting out, and who influenced him to do it. Did his teacher tell him to? Did his teacher encourage him to? Was he paid to opt out? The stranger then asks if he is sure. Is he sure this is true? Is he lying?

CPS insists that only kids who consented were interrogated. (This word, "interrogate," is CPS's choice, not mine.) That's extra reassuring.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood explains why they need to resort to these measures (courtesy of Catalyst):

"[Hood] said that any time there are allegations of teacher misconduct, students and staff may be interviewed. He also clarified that CPS had sent investigators from its Law department, and not actual attorneys, to Drummond to conduct the interviews."

Oh thank God! No actual attorneys, whew! And I'm glad they're on top of this misconduct thing. Can't have teachers telling kids how to th--

Wait a minute, these kids were opted out by their parents. How is that "teacher misconduct"? Shouldn't CPS legal be interviewing...parents? Ah well, a question for another day.

But back to misconduct. Let's think about that idea for a minute.

There is a lot of misconduct going on. But it's not by teachers. And it's not by parents.

No, it's coming from another level.

It was misconduct for principals to misinform families that their school rating depended on their ISAT scores, as many did.

It was misconduct for ISBE to make up a new rule on the fly that opting out was "illegal" when their own website allows for it.

It was misconduct for CPS to allow confusion to reign and the opt-out process to be radically different from one school to another. At one, parents were told their child must make the decision, so principals interviewed children and insisted they tell "in their own words" why they were opting out; while at other schools, only parents could make the decision, and a network chief told me, if God wanted children to make adult decisions, they would have been born as adults.

It was misconduct to punitively withhold breakfast from opt-out kids during the ISAT.

It was misconduct to tell kids who opted out that their opt-out letters were forged. These children were made to take the test.

It was misconduct to disallow a 2nd grader--a grade which doesn't even take the test--to use the bathroom during ISATs and cause this child to have an accident in the classroom.

It was misconduct to pull opted out kids out of their classrooms, after testing was over, place them in the library, put a test in front of them and shout at them: Take the test!

It is misconduct to use the NWEA MAP as the new high-stakes standardized test, as the NWEA website clearly indicates that this test is not designed for this purpose and should not be so used.

It is misconduct to administer a new CCSS high-stakes test, the PARCC, next year before even a year of the CCSS has been taught.

It is misconduct that Barbara Byrd Bennett seems to be unaware of what is actually happening in her own schools. That she categorically denies that even a single child has been questioned. That she is willfully ignorant of the reality of a ten-year-old being questioned by a stranger behind closed doors: "They caught my 10 year old daughter early in the AM," writes one mother.

"I talked with my daughter about it after the fact and it sounds like she was articulate and composed during the questioning. They asked her: Why did you opt out of ISATs?

Who convinced you not to take the ISATs? Did your parents tell you to do it or was it your own choice? Did your teacher discuss it in class? How do you think the teachers at this school feel about the ISATs? How do you know? She told them it was her own choice and she did it because the ISATs cost a lot and count for nothing and there's a CPS budget deficit. When they asked how she knew what they cost, etc. she said she'd done internet research."

And I suppose Barbara Byrd-Bennett would deny that this letter was ever sent out by a principal to angry parents. It does suggest that children were interviewed according to a planned investigation, even if we refuse to believe the testimony of the young girl above.

[I]nvestigators from the Law Department visited the school today for the purpose of interviewing some of the students and staff members. We did not receive prior notification and we were informed that they were within their rights to interview students without parent notification since they are agents of the Chicago Public School system. Byrd Bennett said to me that if student interrogation was happening, that it was wrong was a "no brainer."

ISAT misinformation, layered with opt-out confusion and chaos, layered with threats, layered with intimidation of children, layered with lies and denial--all originating from the network level or higher.

And the legal department is investigating teacher misconduct?


Catalyst Article. By: Melissa Sanchez / March 20, 2014

UPDATE: Following Thursday's interviews at Drummond, CPS officials visited Saucedo on Friday to continue their investigation into "teacher misconduct" related to the recent ISAT boycott. CPS officials said that, unlike Thursday, no students were questioned on Friday.

Saucedo teachers said that CPS investigators only interviewed teachers who didn't boycott the test.

Investigators from the Chicago Public Schools Law department interviewed students and staff today about possible teacher misconduct related to ISAT testing at Drummond Montessori, where some teachers refused to administer the standardized tests as part of a highly publicized teacher protest earlier this month.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood said in a statement that the district wants to ensure students were comfortable during the time the test was administered, although he could not confirm any specific allegations.

The district has not yet disciplined any teachers at Drummond or at Saucedo Scholastic Elementary, where the entire faculty also boycotted the test. But Hood said that teachers do face possible discipline, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Drummond parents who opted their children out of taking the exams which CPS is phasing out and will not count this year toward students promotions or entry into selective schools cried foul after learning that investigators had questioned some children without their consent.

Dont use these kids as pawns in this political game, said Jonathan Goldman, a parent and chair of Drummonds local school council. Given that the allegations that has been made generally is that perhaps teachers were actively encouraging parents to opt their students out, then they should be talking with the parents. Its the parents who made the decision.

Goldman and other parents say they dont understand why CPS did not notify parents or ask for permission before interviewing students. Some parents, including Mike Staudenmaier, called the school after learning of the ongoing investigation to ask that their children not be questioned.

Staudenmaier said he was infuriated that the school district would interrogate children at the school without attempting to notify their parents. Im not a lawyer but this seems completely unethical and reprehensible, he said. They know how to reach us and they chose not to attempt to reach me or any other parent, probably because they recognized they wouldnt have any sympathy from us. So they harassed our kids instead.

Hood did not respond to the parents criticism, but described the investigation as routine. He said that any time there are allegations of teacher misconduct, students and staff may be interviewed. He also clarified that CPS had sent investigators from its Law department, and not actual attorneys, to Drummond to conduct the interviews.

In an interview with Catalyst Chicago, Hood said that CPS may conduct similar investigations at other schools around the district. Although he declined to name the other schools, the comment is a likely reference to Saucedo.

The Chicago Teachers Union has vowed to fight any discipline.

?Read CPSs complete statement below. "Chicago Public Schools is meeting and talking with students, teachers and staff at Drummond Elementary School about ISAT testing to ensure students were comfortable during the time the test was administered. CPS officials only spoke with students who opted to talk with them and the investigation does not pertain to any student disciplinary issue. Students who chose not to take the state-required ISAT test last week do not face discipline from the District. CPS has decreased the number of standardized tests issued each year, but the District is required by Illinois law to administer the ISAT, and the test is tied to federal and state funding for schools."



Retired Principal II wrote 1 day 13 min ago

Parents really have no standing in not allowing cps to question

thier chid(ren) at school -sorry



Retired Principal II wrote 23 hours 33 min ago

cps is creating animosity towards parents, fear in CHILDREN

spite/revenge (rahmistics) toward ctu- bbb gave parents choice-in writing?cps loses in this- let it go, quietly let it go



northside wrote 13 hours 52 min ago


students are always used as witnesses against long as it fits the narrative!



Ed Dziedzic wrote 12 hours 5 min ago


Would you allow a strange adult who is "not a lawyer" go into a closed room and interrogate your 3rd grade child? If you say yes, you are out of your mind. Who were these people, and why are they allowed to interrogate children behind closed doors without their parents being present or even notified?



Ed Dziedzic wrote 12 hours 6 sec ago

BTW They are Minors.

Can they legally give consent to take part in a "questioning" without their parents' consent? I don't think so.

Even if they have a legal leg to stand on (which is doubtful) this is morally very dubious.

What are they thinking?



Don wrote 10 hours 55 min ago

What's the difference between

What's the difference between an AP interviewing a child compared to someone from Clark street? All children in all schools may potentially interact with district employees previously unknown to them. Children are certainly robust enough to not be negatively impacted by these interactions.

It the parents freaking out that freaks out the kids.



Ed Dziedzic wrote 10 hours 5 min ago


So a total stranger from Clark St. who this child has never seen should be allowed to go in to a closed room and ask them questions without even a parent's permission? Do these people even have a criminal background check, like all teachers and APs have?

Have you ever talked to a 3rd grader? Do you think they are all going to be so easy going when talking to some yutz from downtown? In the Sun-Times the children reported that they were asked if they "were lying."

And you would be ok with that for your own child. I would be furious.



Don wrote 8 hours 40 min ago

Hundreds of students are

Hundreds of students are interrogated every day in CPS by people they don't know well.

This sort of questioning is apparently just fine with CTU teachers when the investigation involves student discipline. But god forbid the subject is a CTU member. Suddenly the questioning is yet another moral outrage.

I would have been fine with even my younger children being questioned if 1) The interviewer was thoughtful about the potential negative impact on my child, and 2) the interview was reasonably short.

But I raised robust children that I wouldn't allow to be used as pawns by insecure and myopic teachers.



Anonymous wrote 8 hours 31 min ago

Parents have power

Who says parents have no standing on how their children are treated??Election Day is nearing and the mayor controls the schools. Let's get organized and make our voices heard.



Ed Dziedzic wrote 5 hours 8 min ago

Hundreds a Day?

Really Don? Hundreds of students a day are interrogated in CPS? By whom? Strangers from the board? And you base this knowledge on what??And what are they interrogated about?

I know you have a profound hatred of the CTU, but can't you put that on the side just once and admit the Board screwed up with these stupid tactics?



Don wrote 4 hours 11 min ago

You seem to forget Ed, that

You seem to forget Ed, that you are CPS. So is whoever does discipline at your school. So are the people from Clark street.

36000 high school suspensions last school year. How many interrogations were conducted for those suspensions?

You're right, however. There aren't hundreds of interrogations per day, there are thousands. And plenty of students are uncomfortable during investigations. Which, as I said before, is apparently OK with teachers. But then somehow students become fragile victims of sinister investigators when it's to the CTU's advantage.



Craig Cleve wrote 3 hours 15 min ago


Joel Hood says CPS wanted to make sure kids were "comfortable"? Here's a tip: If you want to ensure the comfort of children, don't place them in a room with a strange adult and put them on the spot with a bunch of leading questions.

When I was a kid, I wanted to please adults in authority. I would have nodded my head and admitted to the Lindbergh kidnapping if it meant pleasing my principal. This kind of questioning without parents present sounds like asking kids to rat on the adults in their lives --- just like they did in Maoist China and Nazi Germany, among others. Well done, CPS. You've graduated to the lower echelon of douchebaggery.



Craig Cleve wrote 3 hours 9 min ago

Stranger than fiction.

@Don -- Of the 36,000 H.S. suspensions you allege last year, I'm guessing 36,000 were processed by the principal of the H.S. with the students' teachers present. Suspensions are handled in-house. No strangers. Next?



Don wrote 2 hours 5 min ago

Well Craig, this whole

Well Craig, this whole democracy thing is inconvenient for you and your CTU, isn't it? You want to run school regardless of election results.



northside wrote 1 hour 16 min ago

ED!! I was joking!

I was joking about the kids. CPS uses a child's story only if it is "convenient" for the admin. I don't know how many times teachers and admins have come up to me saying that some kid said "this or that" only to find out it was just a kid telling a fib...

CPS is pretty sick to do this to kids....exaclty what is the END game here??

CPS scares me a lot



xian wrote 1 hour 14 min ago


Don, the school is required to inform the parents of discipline related interviews.

But I do understand what you are getting at. There's two major issues you aren't addressing.?1. Such interviews should be only utilized for students benefit. This is clearly not the case in this particular case as here we are, day 80 or whatever of this conflict and CPS has yet to articulate a single way this is in children's interest.

2. You say:?I would have been fine with even my younger children being questioned if 1) The interviewer was thoughtful about the potential negative impact on my child, and 2) the interview was reasonably short.

Asking a child if they are lying is not at all thoughtful. And the interviews are part of a lengthy process that has no value to the educational process (I'm including the ISAT in this).

3. What is the point of all of this? This is a situation where people may disagree, but what I'm unclear on is why do any of these? It seems like a compliance drive. Compliance is the opposite of critical education.



Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 sec ago


Northside, I know you were kidding. Sorry my post was below yours, I just was commenting on the idiocy of the situation in general. You always have a clear understanding of the Board. Probably earned the hard way like most of us.


March 26, 2014 at 11:14 PM

By: John Kugler

CPS Gestapo, Shame!!

"they weren't just questioning about the teachers, the children reported to their parents, they [CPS Investigators] were asking questions about their parents!"

(12:26 minute)Michelle Strater Gunderson

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