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As a result of the stunning lack of leadership from the Florida Department of Education, the infringement to principles of ethics and professional conduct are multiplying across the State of Florida. School districts have been complicit.

Parents can take action to stop this now by addressing specific issues with Superintendents and Principals.

Here is a template of a letter that you can adapt to your child’s particular situation or case:

Dear Principal/Superintendent,

(Insert opening paragraph about your given situation here)

There is no argument that the school and the district have an obligation to administer the FSA to their students; Florida Statute 1008.22(3) states clearly that ‘Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools…’. Later in that same provision, we find that if a student does not participate in the assessment program, the school district must notify the student’s parent and provide the parent with information regarding the implications of such nonparticipation. At F.S. 1008.22(4), the obligation is re-iterated with the schools in mind: ‘Each public school shall participate in the statewide, standardized assessment program.’ There is nothing in these provisions that could be construed to justify infringing on the principles of professional conduct that teachers and administrators must comply with, as set forth in F.A.C. 6A-10.081.

In particular, I would like to draw your attention to the following ethical principle contained therein:

(1) Florida educators shall be guided by the following ethical principles:

(c) Aware of the importance of maintaining the respect and confidence of one’s colleagues, of students, of parents, and of other members of the community, the educator strives to achieve and sustain the highest degree of ethical conduct.

Furthermore, Florida educators have the obligation to comply with certain disciplinary principles, first among them, the obligation to ‘make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning and/or to the student’s mental and/or physical health and/or safety’ (F.A.C. 6A-10.081 (2)(a)1.). Keeping a child alone in a room with nothing to do, putting pressure on a child to go against their family’s principled objection to a test, threatening grade retention in order to obtain compliance from a young child, or making First grade students fear the prospect of a test two years in their future, to such an extent that they dread promotion to the next grade level, are all situations that betray a lack of effort to protect the health, safety and dignity of students.

Moreover, it is also worth mentioning that educators have the obligation to not ‘intentionally expose a student to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.’ ((F.A.C. 6A-10.081 (2)(a)5.) Shaming a child for refusing to take a test or singling out that child by withholding access to routine parts of the day, such as recess, is unnecessarily embarrassing and disparaging. We implore you to cease such practices immediately.

Few teachers, if any, enter the profession expecting to have to resort to bullying tactics to coerce their students into complying with State mandates. In fact, most take their ethical commitment to their students so seriously that they expect to be their students’ advocate in making sure they each have access to the best opportunities and conditions to learn. The State’s accountability system has turned the tables on them, pitting teachers against students and their families, and requiring teachers to put the best interest of the testocracy ahead of that of their own students. In so doing, the DOE and the district superintendents have made it exceedingly difficult for teachers to abide by the ethical principle at F.A.C. 6A-10.081 (1)(b) which states that ‘The educator’s primary professional concern will always be for the student and for the development of the student’s potential. The educator will therefore strive for professional growth and will seek to exercise the best professional judgment and integrity.’

Before even more students are harmed, before their learning and development is further compromised, before teachers and principals are forced to violate their ethical principles yet again, we demand that you put an end to the bullying and harassment of our students in our classrooms, in our schools and in our districts.

If these acts of bullying, intimidation and abuses of power continue, we will be forced to seek legal counsel and to file formal ethics complaints. Many parents whose children have already been affected are already considering alerting the press.

_____________________

Thank you to Marie-Claire Leman for her research super powers.

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