SACRAMENTO – Officials at Sacramento Unified School District need to remind themselves that public schools belong to the public, and the public has a right to express itself about education issues.
Katherine Duran is the mother of a student at Sacramento’s Mark Twain Elementary, and one of many parents with deep concerns about the school’s scheduled transformation to Common Core math and English standards in the fall.
As a form of protest, Duran printed out a bunch of forms for parents, which they can sign if they want to have their children opted out of Common Core testing.
She gave the forms to her son, Christopher Duran, who handed them to other students to take home to their parents.
That was obviously too much for school officials, who had a police officer visit Duran’s house and hand her a notice of a 14-day suspension from school property.
This is wrong in so many ways, it’s tough to know where to begin.
For starters, when approached by the media, school officials were confused about why Duran was banned from the school in the first place.
“It appears she went a little too far with regards to how she distributed information at school sites, distributing information to children directly,” Gabe Ross, a spokesman for the Sacramento school district, was quoted as saying by News10.net.
When she heard that, Duran reminded the reporter that she gave her son the forms to distribute to children, and she did not participate in the distribution. Ross later admitted she was correct.
The district then claimed that Ross was suspended because of a confrontation she had with the principal of Mark Twain Elementary, after school officials took the forms from her son.
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Duran said she tried to take the forms from the principal’s desk, and the principal slammed her hand on them and said they were no longer her property. Duran said she took the forms, anyway, which led to the visit from the police officer.
The hypocrisy in this case is pretty thick.
We can think of many instances, usually during teachers union labor disputes around the nation, when school employees – including administrators – encourage students to walk out of class or stage other forms of protest, in support of the teachers.
When challenged, they argue that students are citizens who have the right to express themselves and promote their views.
So why don’t school officials recognize Christopher Duran’s right to protest Common Core by distributing the opt-out forms? Neither the boy nor his mother can force other parents to sign them. They are simply making parents aware of the issue, and their right to have their students exempted from Common Core exams.
The difference seems to be as simple as this – school officials encourage student activism when the students advance a cause they support, but turn the tables when they don’t agree with the message being promoted.
“I think it’s an effort to undermine the anti-Common Core movement,” Durant said.
We think she’s correctly identified the problem.
The Sacramento school district has no justification for blocking the First Amendment right of Christopher Duran to express his views by distributing the forms, as long as he’s not disrupting school activities.
And school officials should cut his mother a break. If she was a little upset when she visited the principal, it’s understandable. The school kept her son from exercising his rights, confiscated her property and allegedly refused to return it.
For too long the education establishment – school board members, administrators and union leaders – have acted as though public schools are their own private fiefdoms, and citizens have to accept their decisions and the way they run things.
They’re way off base. Citizens have a right to upset the apple cart when they believe a policy is not in their best interest.
It’s disgusting to hear about a concerned citizen being banned from public property for expressing herself. That would be like banning citizens from city hall or the state house when they protest a tax or a law.
In the end, millions of citizens like Duran will decide the fate of the Common Core experiment in California, whether the school establishment likes it or not.
If K-12 officials really expected this issue to pass by with little protest, they were fooling themselves. Parents care about the type of education their kids receive, and they’ve been protesting throughout the nation about the confusing new Common Core standards.
That’s their absolute right, and school officials need to stay out of their way while they exercise it.