ELIZABETH, N.J. (PIX11)– A New Jersey mom opposing the PARCC exam says her child’s school district is encroaching on her 1st amendment rights.
“I have freedom of speech. The trees don’t belong to the board of education. So I’m pretty sure I’m within my rights to put them up,” exclaimed Christina Moreira, an Elizabeth, New Jersey mom.
Her signs used to read: ‘Elizabeth Public Schools you can choose to refuse the PARCC’.
PARCC is the new state standardized test that over 1.3 million New Jersey students will begin taking Monday.
Moreira says she wanted Elizabeth parents to know they have the right to refuse the test for their child. She says her daughter will not be taking the exam.
Soon after posting at least 10 signs around the city, she got a letter from an attorney for the Elizabeth school district telling her to “ceast and desist from posting signs that confuse the public”.
The school district’s letter states her signs make it appear as though Elizabeth Public Schools endorse opting out of PARCC.
“It’s her first amendment right. That’s absolutely ridiculous,” said parent Laura Rico.
In the letter, the school district’s attorney acknowledges the right to oppose the test but underlines that it should be done “outside of schools”.
Moreira has since covered up the words ‘public schools’ to make the signs read: ‘Elizabeth, you can choose to refuse the PARCC’.
Moreira posted the letter on Facebook. Parents objected to the letter online and in interviews with PIX11 on Sunday.
“I think it was intimidating and it was a scare tactic,” said Tom Bergen, a dad of 4 children in the district.
“Why shouldn’t we be able to put up signs because we care about our children’s education?” asked another parent, Nina McArdle.
Moreira and others say it’s the school district that is confusing the public. She is pushing for the board and administration to release a written policy on how parents can properly keep their child from taking the exam, if that is what they choose. They also want to know what their kids will be doing while others take the exam and if there will be consequences for forgoing the test.
“There is no real continuity as to exactly what is gonna happen? And that is why I wanted a policy to be put in writing. So that parents are not left to wonder,” she said.
“I think they are withholding a lot of information from the parents,” said another Elizabeth mom, Vanda Borga. “They are not being honest with the parents by telling them they can refuse the test.”
The district’s letter to Moreira explicitly states that parents with kids in Elizabeth Public Schools cannot opt out of the exam.
A spokesman for the district, Don Goncalves, told PIX 11 on Sunday that they are standing by their decision to make this test apart of the schools’ curriculum. He also said they cannot force children who say no to take the test, but they do believe it is in the best interest of all students to take it.
“The parents have a legal right to take care of their kids and do what they think is the right thing to do,” said Tom Bergen.
Bergen and the other parents who spoke out Sunday say they don’t want their kids to become a data point and that they are concerned about teachers teaching to the test. Overall, they attest that the exams are not bringing any added value to their kids’ education.