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An Open Letter to BOCES Superintendent Don Ogilvie

An Open Letter to BOCES Superintendent Don Ogilvie

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Published by Eric L. Mihelbergel
An Open Letter to BOCES Superintendent Don Ogilvie
An Open Letter to BOCES Superintendent Don Ogilvie

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Published by: Eric L. Mihelbergel on Mar 07, 2014
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07/28/2014

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March 7, 2014 An Open Letter to Don Ogilvie, District Superintendent of Erie 1 BOCES Dear Mr.

Ogilvie, In a recent television interview on Channel 2 News in Buffalo, March 6, 2014, you made it clear to the public that, as an educator, the ‘sit and stare’ situation, as related to the well-being of children, is not a concern to you. I was saddened to hear this, and I respectfully hope that you will reconsider your position. This was specifically in regards to some school district policies regarding NYS test refusal whereby children, whose parents rightfully refuse to allow them to participate in NYS tests, will be forced to sit in silence in a hard chair for the entire testing time with absolutely nothing to do for all six days of testing. Here is the link to your interview: http://www.wgrz.com/story/news/education/2014/03/06/claims-children-are-being-unfairlypunished/6141753/ I respect that you are a busy man, but I am disappointed that, after 2 phones to your office over the last month and several emails, you did not once find the time to return my phone calls or email messages regarding this situation, yet somehow you found time for a television interview to make it clear to the public that forcing young children to sit in silence for long periods of time with nothing to do for several days is just fine with you. It is confusing to the public that the State Education Commissioner’s field representative for the WNY area is not interested in doing what is best for young children. In your interview you say, “The premise is that sitting there is punishment. I don’t agree with that. It’s a test setting. It is a few individuals that are describing it that way.” The parent group that I am privileged to be part of consists of about 25,000 members, not just a few individuals. You also may have missed the announcement from NYS United Teachers (NYSUT) where they “strongly condemn ‘sit and stare’ policies”. NYSUT has 600,000 members, so, again, it is not just a few individuals that feel this way. I challenge any adult to sit in a rigid chair for at least an hour with nothing to do for six days. While you are sitting there imagine that you are an 8 year old child. Imagine an 8 year old child who has done absolutely nothing wrong wondering why he is being forced to sit there. How does it feel after the first day? How about after the second day? Now imagine that you are a child with anxiety disorder. How does it feel after the third day, with anxiety disorder, being forced to sit there wondering why you are being punished? Are you looking forward to coming back to school for the fourth, fifth and sixth day? Now imagine that you are a child with anxiety disorder and ADHD? In the 2014 Common Core ELA Tests Teacher's Directions April 1-3, 2014, Grades 3, 4, and 5, it states on 10 different pages that "After a student's test materials are collected, that student may be permitted to read quietly. This privilege is granted at the discretion of each school.” This is on pages 6, 14, 18, 21, 25, 29, 32, 36, 40, and 43 (http://www.p12.nysed.gov/assessment/sam/ei/td-35ela14.pdf ). As the State Education Commissioner’s field representative for the WNY area I asked that you please re-read this document. This language is very clear. The only requirement by the NYS Education Department for

being allowed to read is that the test materials be collected. So, it becomes quite clear that the “discretion of each school” is being used as a bullying tactic to try to get children to participate in tests that parents have already exercised their right to refuse. Why else would only a few school districts enforce this type of policy when most school districts allow children to read or go to another room for an alternate activity? This type of treatment of children is not ok in any other setting. Child and Family Services has said it is a violation of child care laws. I talked to them personally. They told me that just the ‘threat’ of this would be a violation in child care settings, let alone the act of enforcing it. There is no “hyperbole” as you claim in your interview. This is what Child and Family Services has said to parents about how this would apply in child care settings. Foster care units have also said this would be a violation of foster care rules. If an adult babysitter forced children to sit in silence with nothing to do for long periods of time when the child has done nothing wrong parents would report it to authorities. So if this sort of treatment is not acceptable in any other settings it becomes very concerning to the public that you openly support it. I kindly request that you please reconsider your position on this sensitive topic. There is no logical reason to support the ‘sit and stare’ policy, and you would make a huge difference for children by not supporting it. Thank you very much.

Sincerely, Eric Mihelbergel 716-553-1123

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