Parents of students in public schools have no legal right to withdraw their children or opt out of statewide standardized tests, Attorney General Mark Brnovich concluded today.
In a formal opinion, Brnovich acknowledged that state law does permit parents to exempt their children from certain learning materials and activities they find objectionable. That even includes keeping them out of a class or lesson where the material is being used or discussed.
But Brnovich, in response to a question raised by state schools chief Diane Douglas, said standardized tests are “separate and distinct” from such materials or activities. And he said nothing in the exemption law specifically includes a right to withdraw from standardized tests.
The attorney general also rejected Douglas’ suggestion that parents gained new rights in 2010 when the Legislature passed a “Parents Bill of Rights.”
That law, he said details the obligation of local school boards to ensure they inform parents about their rights to opt out of certain assignments. It also includes the ability to refuse to have children immunized and the right not to have children taught about AIDS.
But nowhere in that law, Brnovich said, did lawmakers include testing.
“The Legislature’s failure to include such a right is especially telling because the statute specifically mentions the ‘right to review test results’ and the `right to receive a school report card,’” he wrote.
Yet Brnovich pointed out that, even in amending the law in 2010, the Legislature did not see fit to include opting out of testing in that list. And he said that when lawmakers make an extensive list like this, it is presumed they know what is not on it.
Brnovich said parents do have the right to direct the education of their children.
He said, though, that involves whether to send a child to a public district or charter school, a private or parochial school, or to choose to school a child at home.
“It does not allow a parent who sends a child to a public school to prescribe the details of that child’s education,” Brnovich wrote.
The formal opinions of a state attorney general of the meaning of a state law are not the same as a court ruling. But they can be cited by parties who argue a case and provide a legal defense to schools that follow the ruling.