Opt Out News: 'CPS should stand for Chicago Police State!'... Parents denounce Byrd Bennett for doubletalk and police state tactics against kids

Dozens of irate Chicago Public School parents and some teachers took the floor during the March 26, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education to denounce an ongoing investigation into why so many parents -- possibly numbering in the thousands -- utilized their right to opt out their children from the ISAT (Illinois State Achievement Tests) testing program during the first two weeks of March 2014. The parents, from all parts of the city, denounced Board staff who descended on several schools (but not all) where children were opted out of the ISAT tests. ISAT will be discontinued after this school year.

While fellow parents from Drummond Montessori Elementary School stand with her cheering, teacher and parent Anne Carlson reads from her statement to the Board, in which she outlined the evils of the interrogations of children and suggested that CPS stands for "Chicago Police State." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Among those who testified to the Board was Anne Carlson, who provided Substance with her statement. The following is the complete statement she had prepared. It had to be shortened because of the Board policy only allowing real people to speak for two minutes during "public participation."

My name is Anne Carlson and I am a parent at Drummond Montessori School. Last Thursday, my husband had to call the office to say: We do NOT give permission for our third-grade daughter, Sofia, to be interrogated by CPS officials.

Otherwise, our 8-year-old, whose two front teeth have still not grown in fully, would have been escorted to the office and the principal would have put her in a closed room with two complete strangers. Other children were not so lucky. Around 30 students were interrogated about supposed teacher misconduct. One 11-year-old girl was asked:

1. Why did you opt out of the ISAT?

2. Who convinced you not to take the ISAT?

3. Did your teacher discuss it in class?

4. How do you think the teachers at this school feel about the ISATs?

Imagine her feet dangling from the chair, with her ponytail swaying back and forth. She responded that she had discussed it at home with her parents and had done her own research. Her parents said the decision was up to her. Her brother chose to take the exam and she chose not to. She explained she did it because the ISATs cost a lot and count for nothing and theres a CPS budget deficit. The investigators seemed incredulous that a fifth-grader could engage in critical thinking.

Other students had similar experiences.

One was asked, Are you sure? Are you lying?

Afterward, another was anxious and worried that she had gotten her teacher in trouble.

Certain things are clear in all this: We at Drummond foster an environment where children love learning. These students love their teachers. They are independent, critical thinkers, and can compose a coherent argument with adults that theyve never even met before. They use grace and courtesy in everything they do, which is a Montessori principle.

You, on the other hand, see our children as points on a data wall; you see our students as receptacles for facts, easily influenced by evil teachers.

In fact, these students have outsmarted YOU. They do all of the things you disingenuously promote in your rhetoric: they read incessantly, they are life-long learners, they are connected to their community, and they want to make the world a better place.

This investigation has backfired on you, CPS. Parents and teachers and students are livid that you would try to drive a wedge between children and their teachers.

This photo was taken of Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd Bennett while parent Zerlina Smith was denouncing the Board's insults to parents during the investigations into why so many parents opted out their children from the ISAT testing program. While the parents were speaking at the Board meetings, the Board of Education's investigators were still out in a number of schools grilling children (and some PSRPs, who are more vulnerable to pressure) about whether teachers talked with children and parents about their right to Opt Out. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In January Barbara Byrd-Bennett wrote a letter to parents. In it, she said, While I respect your right to opt out of testing, it is extremely important for you to understand that by doing so, your childs future could be negatively impacted.

Little did we know that she was being quite literal, and that CPS would directly ensure this negative outcome by bullying a group of 8 to 12 year-olds on their witch hunt.

Maybe I look or sound familiar to some of you. I spoke here a year ago. At that time, I used child abuse as a metaphor for the explosion of high-stakes testing with CPS.

Well, now, the child abuse is actually REAL and you are the ones who should be investigated for misconduct.

Finally, Im not just a parent at my daughters school, Im also one of dozens of teachers city-wide who has refused to administer the ISAT this year.

The kids Ive described to you here are MY students. Students want to learn and teachers want to teach. You pulled children out of class, robbing them of instructional time, to snitch on their teachers. We are educational professionals, and part of being a professional means researching and opposing misguided educational policies from mass school closings, to racist disciplinary practices, to excessive standardized testing, to bullying little kids. We are on the front lines.

We should speak out when children are being harmed; we should speak out when laws in the state of Illinois are unjust. Teachers should not be disciplined for standing up for students. Its reprehensible that you conducted this investigation using students to get their teachers in trouble. Why not just interrogate me and the other boycotting teachers? As a parent, and as a teacher, Im here to tell you that you should be ashamed of yourselves. CPS doesnt stand for Chicago Public Schools anymore. A more appropriate name would be Chicago Police State.


March 27, 2014 at 10:45 PM

By: Lynda McClelland

Chicago School District

I am from Kansas City. I am very impressed with how the teachers of the Chicago School District have a voice for their students.

If more teachers would take a stand against injustice, bullying, "racist disciplinary practices" the Kansas City school district would be an accredited school.

"Yes, Anne Carlson and others, continue to stand up, speak out, let your voices be heard. Our children deserve to have advocates who care about humankind and not about the money. Yes, if you didn't know you should know it is about the dollar. Otherwise, why would one terrorize children?"

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