GOSHEN, N.Y. – An eighth-grade student in New York says she was suspended from school last week after informing classmates that they could opt-out of an upcoming Common Core English test.
According to a complaint filed by 13-year-old Seirra Olivero, the incident began when a teacher at Orange-Ulster BOCES told her to “shut her mouth and keep walking” for telling a fellow student that he did not have to take the controversial test.
Opposing what she felt was intimidation, Olivero later approached several other students and told them the same, noting that “the test is set up for the kids to fail.”
Shortly after, Olivero was called out of class and asked “why she was telling students they didn’t have to take the test” by the school’s principal.
“I replied and said, ‘I did some research and it said they don’t have to,’” Olivero told the Times Herald-Record.
Olivero says the principal continued asking question after question, demanding to know if she had researched “both sides” of the issue.
“Then she started to ask other questions and that’s when she started to interrogate me and I felt like I was being treated like a criminal,” Olivero said.
Olivero says the last straw was when the principal refused to let her call her mother, leading her to get up and leave the office.
As Olivero quickly walked away from the hostile situation, a school administrator ordered her to stop as many as six times, telling her she had “no business telling the kids that they don’t have to take the test” while in school.
“Then I said, ‘I can tell them whatever I want and to mind his business’ and he said ‘No, it is his business.’”
The school suspended Olivero for two days.
Olivero’s mother, Carin Beauchesne, says her daughter was justified in her actions because school administrators were bullying her for her free speech.
“She walked away! She felt she was being treated like a criminal,” Beauchesne said. “She’s a 13-year-old girl. What would you do?”
When questioned by the Times Herald-Record, Orange-Ulster BOCES Superintendent William Hecht argued that Olivero was suspended for her insubordination, not her free speech.
Beauchesne also noted that her daughter’s speech is protected by New York’s Dignity for All Students act, a law that aims to protect students from discrimination, intimidation and harassment.
Olivero has since left Orange-Ulster BOCES and plans to enroll in a new school as her complaint is reviewed.