Katherine Duran is a concerned mom whose 12-year-old son attends Mark Twain Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District in California.   She is concerned about the Common Core State Standards and the assessments that go along with it and co-founded Concerned Parents of Elk Grove an advocacy group dedicated to informing families about the Common Core State Standards.

Her son was concerned about his friends taking the assessment so he asked his mother if he have some to hand out to his friends who live in a Hispanic neighbor in the District.  She told Caffeinated Thoughts, “I was horrified to learn that not only do these families know nothing about CC, they know nothing about the upcoming test, nor their right to opt out.”

Handing out opt-out forms to students was something she said she would never ask her son to do, but since he asked and wanted to she agreed.

The packet included a letter describing the Common Core State Standards, the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be administered in their school and why parents should opt-out.  It also included an opt-out form developed by the Pacific Justice Institute and a business card with contact information for Concerned Parents of Elk Grove.  The letter acknowledged the group’s support of the school, its teachers and administration.

This is NOT a war on our schools. We love our teachers and principals. Opting out now will ultimately protect teachers and prevent them from being subjected to the unfair evaluations and accountability mandated by the federal government.  Teachers, principals and administrators across the United States have expressed their disapproval of every aspect of the Common Core initiative.

He brought the assessment opt-out packets to school on Thursday, March 20, 2014.  Duran said they were originally sealed in hand-written envelopes.  During the day according to Duran the school principal, Rosario Guillen, made an announcement over the loudspeaker that the forms were inappropriate and were to be collected.

Her son told her what had happened when she picked him up.  She then went into the office to speak with the principal.  She said Guillen admonished her saying, “I’m very concerned you put your son in this position, it is inappropriate….what you did was inappropriate.”

She said she replied, “I understand, please know I would never ask him to, ever, but he begged me.  He’s just that type of kid.”  Duran said Guillen said that she did not have the right to distribute to parents without going through her first.  She said she replied, “I understand, of course, that makes sense. However, I did not disseminate, my son did. My son is also very concerned about the inappropriateness of Common Core and the tests and wanted to share that.  I believe he has a right to share with his friends, the same as it would be for party invitations, Valentines.” Duran reported that Guillen said, “I’m very uncomfortable with this, and I’m ending our meeting, and now I’ll have run all of this past the district, they’re not going to like it.”

“I stood from the chair and held eye contact, reached down and picked up the 8 or so envelopes and she said, ‘No! They’re not yours any more!’ and slammed her hand on top of the stack with one hand and gripped with the other. I have basal thumb arthritis [and my thumb is dislocated, it’s excruciatingly painful] so I only had one good hand on them, but since I am paying for this stuff with money I don’t even have, I was not letting go. I held on to the stack with one hand and held out the other hand with one of the letters and said, ‘Respectfully, I will leave one for you but I’m taking the rest with me. Good afternoon.’ And left with them in all hand. Sans the one,” Duran told Caffeinated Thoughts.

On Monday, Duran said the police delivered a letter from the school principal.  Guillen told Duran that she was banning her from campus for 14 days.

The letter said:

Dear Ms. Duran:

I take pride in maintaining Mark Twain Elementary as a school that is open and receptive to the entire Sacramento community. Consequently, it is with a great deal of reluctance that I write this letter to you.

The District may be conducting an investigation into your conduct that occurred on March 20,2014. Your aggressive behavior and inappropriate conduct impacted the well-being of students, staff, and parents on the Mark Twain Campus.

Because I consider your actions on the Mark Twain campus to interfere with the discipline, good conduct and lawful performance of school activities, I am withdrawing consent for you to remain on campus in accordance with California Penal Code Section 626.4(a) (enclosed).

Therefore, effective the date listed above, you may not come into any school building or upon school grounds for the next fourteen (14) days unless the purpose relates to the legitimate educational needs of your children who attend Mark Twain. In such case, you must obtain my permission in advance.

I also want to inform you that the Education Code (full text attached) considers the following to be misdemeanor offenses:

Willful disturbance of any public school or any public school meeting. California Education Code Section 32210.

Willful interference with the discipline, good order, lawful conduct, or administration of any school class or activity of the school with the intent to disrupt, obstruct or to inflict damage to property. California Education Code Section 448 1 0.

Conduct which disrupts classwork or extracurricular activity or involves substantial disorder. Education Code Section 4481t.

Further disruption of classroom or school activities, disturbance of school employees, or failure to comply with this letter may result in a misdemeanor and subject you to arrest. In addition, the District will consider further lawful proceedings,such as obtaining a temporary restraining order and other civil action to maintain safety and order on campus. The District will seek reimbursement for attorney costs the courts may impose.

Duran said two different school officials reported to her that the principal alleged that Duran aggressively shoved Guillen’s arm away and yanked the opt-out packets away from her.  “Anybody who knows me could tell you that is so out-of-character for me.  This has turned into a ‘she said, she said’ situation,” Duran told Caffeinated Thoughts.

Her son asked for replacement opt-out forms asserting that he was within his rights to give them to his friends.

“In the school’s repeated attempts to block the information from being disseminated to the kids on campus, my son has been abused, his right to distribute leaflets on campus violated, his opt out forms confiscated. When he returned each day with more, the kids who had previously had their forms and letters confiscated received replacements, only to have them confiscated, yet again. My son was removed from class, double-teamed and harassed by the principal and another teacher, his lunch pail searched, his friends made to fear taking the forms and another kid forced to open his backpack in search of this ‘offensive, inappropriate material,’” Duran shared.

Duran alleges that her son was denied classroom instruction several times throughout the ordeal this week and last, once when he was pulled out for 90 minutes (on Tuesday 3/26/14),  while he was interrogated and intimidated, the principal double-teaming him with another teacher trying to get him to hand over his stack of forms.

During one of the encounters Duran told Caffeinated Thoughts when he was sent to the principal’s office he was left waiting until they could get a witness in with them.  Duran then said the Principal told her son, “I’m going to let you judge what you think the right thing is, should you tell me where those forms are?”  When he wouldn’t reveal where the packets where she continued to question him and then said, “well I’m going to let you go out into the hall and eat your lunch and reconsider your options of telling me where the forms are.”

Duran said she had encouraged her son to call her when they tried to pull him out of class.  She recounted:

He just told me he wants to take some more opt out forms to school and I said it’s up to him. He said, “I don’t want the kids to get mad [if I don’t bring them] but they want them for sure. I said, Christopher why didn’t you call Mommy? Remember I told you if your teacher calls anyone or sends you out to call me right away? He said, “I TRIED but they wouldn’t let me! I said, please, can I call my mom? And Ms. Guillen said, ‘No at this time you cannot call your mom.'”

He was afraid…of course HE WAS AFRAID!!!!!! He BELIEVED them! Since he knew I had been “suspended” and that the police had driven all the way out to the house (almot 30 miles away) to deliver those papers, they made him believe I I WOULD BE ARRESTED IF HE CALLED ME AND I CAME TO HIS RESCUE!!!

Their legal department finally let them know my son is within his rights to disseminate but tried to make it out that he has previously been disruptive to instruction and school business, but there is an entire campus of kids as witness that’s not true, and kids are begging him to bring more forms every day. My brave little boy.

Duran noted that this type of intimidation is not just limited to her son or even students, but has heard first hand from teachers as well.

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