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Civil rights attorney Van White is representing the Barber family. They claim their son, Hunter, an eighth grader at Burger Middle School, was suspended from the modified baseball team for refusing to take the state exams.
While the suit is pending, White asked the court for the punishment to be lifted, but says the judge disagreed. The lawyer says Barber isn't the only student being disciplined.
"There are others. In fact, in the complaint, we reference an eight-year-old child who was denied recess because she refused to take the examination. There are other cases across the state where there are students who at the direction of their parents or on their own have decided that they don't want to take these tests," said White.
White says his client and other students are not refusing to take tests that will affect their grades; rather, they're tests that assess teacher and school performance.
"What we find constitutionally inconsistent about this is that in one district, if you refuse to take a test, you are charged with insubordination and then told you can't have recess or you can't play in an extracurricular activity. Yet in another district a mile away, within the same state, if you refuse to take the exact same test, which again doesn't relate to your own personal development but you refuse to take that test, you suffer no consequences."
In a statement, Rush-Henrietta Schools Superintendent Ken Graham said:
"We are pleased with this decision. As we approached the state assessments, we held all students to the same expectations. Nearly all of our 2,300 students in grades three through eight have now taken their state exams. Determining what students know and can do on state assessments is an important part of the process. 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."
It's a law that school districts establish a code of conduct. However, it's up to each individual district as to how that code is enforced and the consequences for violating it.
Jody Siegle, the president of the Monroe County School Boards Association, says these codes are developed by boards of education along with community members. Siegle says codes of conduct are a standard for behavior by everyone in a district, not just students.
"It makes it clear what's expected, what we want of our students and our community and at the same time, it makes it clear what the consequences are if you don't follow the rules," Siegle said.
Siegle says these exams are federally mandated. Failure to comply could result in a loss of federal funding and even school closings.
"It's important that there are tests that teachers can use to give them the information they need. It's good to have a picture how things are being done statewide, but at the same time it's important to remember that the tests are about learning about the children and not having them take on a life of their own that's political, that's economic, and that where they get used to make assumptions about things that the tests won't really show you," said Siegle.
Siegle suggests parents address concerns with their federal representatives, not the local school district.
Meanwhile, White says he is prepared to take his client's case all the way the the United States Supreme Court.