Calcasieu student testifies he was penalized for opting out of state testing

Calcasieu student testifies he was penalized for opting out of state testing

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - At just 11 years old Conner Long testified in front the House Education Committee in support of a bill that would prohibit discrimination and penalties against students who opt out of state testing.

End of the year state assessments are optional for students. While school systems encourage everyone to take the exams, parents do have the choice of whether their student tests or not.

One family feels their son was limited because he opted out, and Thursday they testified in Baton Rouge in support of House Bill 536.

"Hi, my name is Conner Long and I support HB 536," he said at the House Education Committee meeting.

Conner told his story of what happened after he opted out of state testing.

"He was all excited that he could run for student council officer, but we received a letter on September 9 saying he couldn't run for student council officer because he didn't score basic level on student assessments," explain Conner's mom Elizabeth Long.

She says she opted him out of the test because of medical issues and didn't want Conner to stress over the exam. Long never expected it would limit his extra curricular activities.

"He's a 3.75 GPA student," she told the committee, "He's in BETA."

House Bill 536 was written to prohibit schools from penalizing students who opt out of the test, and also ask districts to accommodate students who don't take the test putting them in another room or library. Currently, the Calcasieu Parish School Board keeps those not taking the exam in the testing room, allowing them to "quietly read a library book during the testing time."

"Sit there, read a book, or go to sleep," Conner's lists his options during testing week.

The main opponent of the bill, Executive Director of the Louisiana School Boards Association Scott Richard, cited staffing issues as the reason those opting out aren't separated during the test.

However, regarding Conner's story, Richard said, "I think some bad decisions were made on the local level on this one."

Richard says he spoke with Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus about the student council requirements.

"He indicated that at the time their policy and practice regarding student council nominations was the real issue and that's probably something they should take a look at," said Richard in the committee meeting.

Members of the committee agreed.

"I think what happened to the little boy was asinine," said Rep. Chris Broadwater (R-Hammond).

The bill was voluntarily deferred by its author Rep. Vincent Pierre (D-Lafayette). Instead, KPLC is told a House Resolution may be written to ensure no student opting out is penalized.

The Long family calls it a win.

"It only takes one voice to make a difference, and when it comes to the House Education Committee it was a child's voice," said Long.

Click here to watch the House Education Committee meeting.

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