DOWNTOWN — Parents pushed back Monday against a Chicago Public Schools investigation concerning the student and teacher boycott of a controversial statewide test.
The neighborhood group Action Now circulated an online petition backing both students and teachers who opted out of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test this month. "We stand with them and demand that no one will be retaliated against," the petition declared.
Action Now spokeswoman Aileen Kelleher on Monday called the investigation "a very underhanded way" of CPS responding to "parents pushing back on big corporate education reforms that aren't helping our kids."
At the same time, Parents 4 Teachers organized an April 9 fundraiser to "honor and defend the ISAT boycott." According to the parent group, teachers at three schools refused to administer the test, and 1,000 families at 80 schools had their children opt out from taking it this month.
"We need to make a strong stand in support of these courageous teachers and families," the group declared. "Boycotting teachers should face no disciplinary action. Let our teachers teach! Let our kids learn!"
The group added that "any funds raised will be used to support Chicago’s anti-testing resistance movement."
CPS riled parents at Drummond Montessori in Bucktown and Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village last week when investigators turned up at the schools on Thursday and Friday. Investigators questioned students and teachers at Drummond.
CPS insisted investigators did not questions kids, but only teachers at Saucedo. Yet parents and teachers reported otherwise.
The story got national coverage in The Washington Post.
Action Now members who are also CPS parents have taken a consistent interest in CPS issues like school closings. "This is another issue they're upset about, that the [CPS] lawyers would come in and just question kids without asking parents," Kelleher said. "A lot of kids are kind of scared or freaked out. That's not how [parents] believe the school district should be treating our children."
As of midday Monday, the petition had 243 signers.
The parent group Raise Your Hand also distributed a legal opinion contesting CPS' right to question students without first obtaining parental permission.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Loyola University law professors Bruce Boyer and Stacey Platt, both CPS parents, said: "The doctrine of in loco parentis in no way justifies the Chicago Board of Education’s alleged actions in removing children from their classrooms to question them without advance parental notification and consent. ... It is not intended to permit schools or districts to replace or disrupt a parent’s right to supervise his or her children and exercise his or her legal rights as parents. Nor is it a license for schools and school districts to investigate and intimidate children, families and their community supporters. Such activities, rather than helping students, harm them and their families, in violation of the doctrine’s purpose."
The statement said CPS should confront parents, not students, with any questions on the opt-out process, or justify student questioning to parents beforehand. It added: "The board’s failure to provide notice and respect the requirement of parental consent has rightfully placed its motivations into serious question."
Wendy Katten of Raise Your Hand said she expected the issue to come up during the public-comment segment of Wednesday's Board of Education meeting.
Drummond parents said they thought the questioning of students was a "witch hunt" aimed at teachers who opposed the ISAT. Kelleher pointed out the Action Now petition supports students, parents and teachers. "Parents are prepared to defend our teachers," she said, adding it's intended "to let CPS know we're watching what they do."
"We appreciate the support," said Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin. "We welcome these actions as CPS continues its witch hunt and persecution of educators who chose teaching over testing."
CPS officials did not respond Monday to requests for comment.