Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Jersey School Censors Teen.

“It is very important for students to share their thoughts. We are the ones who are affected by these standards and exams.”

That was Jacob Hartmann's response to me when I told him that I was sorry that he and my son had not had the opportunity to speak at the last public forum for the NJ State Board of Education. Both teens attended the meeting that day, Jacob, to use his voice to be heard by testifying, my son, Ryan, to gain an understanding of the process to be able to speak at the next opportunity.

Jacob has jumped into the NJ Test Refusal movement with both feet and has quickly gained himself a reputation as “that amazing young man from Toms River that is speaking up against testing.” He has been very active in our growing (about 700 members added in a week) NJ refusal group and has even developed his own PARCC/Common Core website.

This weekend, Jacob told us an interesting story. He had recently developed flyers to hand out at his school with NJEA “Tests don't Teach” pins. He has had his own pin for about a month and has worn it every day to school without an issue. The morning of the 16th Jacob arrived at the school and met up with the building principal, handing him a flyer and a pin while expressing his intent to hand out the information to his peers and fellow students. He was immediately told “not in school.” He requested to meet later with the principal and was assured that something would be arranged so they could discuss it further.

During lunch, Jacob attempted to make an appointment with the principal and was told by the secretary that the principal would “review it and get back to him later.” He was never permitted the chance to have a discussion with the principal to state his reasonings for wanting to hand out the literature and the pins. Jacob messaged his father who then contacted the Board of Education. It was then explained that the Assistant Superintendent must first approve the material.

After school, Jacob reviewed the flyer that he had created and did some research to confirm to himself that he was within his constitutional rights to proceed with his plan. After a discussion with his parents, he took his story to social media and mainstream media. Letters were written, including one to Senator Bob Menendez, and complaints were drafted to be filed with the NJ ACLU; First Amendment Schools; The NJ Attorney General - Division on Civil Rights; The U.S. Department of Education (Office for Civil Rights); SPAN; the United Nations; and the U.S. Department of Justice. In the meantime, Jacob has been advised not to hand out the flyer at school himself. But he refuses to be silenced. His father and several co-workers plan to go down-town during lunch and hand out the flyers in severs areas that the high-schoolers frequent for lunch.

When asked how he felt about the incident, Jacob responded that he felt the school was very ignorant in not hearing him out and shooing him away. He fears that he will face disciplinary action if he hands out flyers, especially since he was contacted by an attorney from the Toms River Board of Ed asking him for a copy of the speech he had given at the December board meeting. He related this incident to a a scare tactic.

Jacob refuses to be silenced. He will be attending the next board meeting on the 20th. Several students have even contacted him to show their support as well as to make plans to speak out as well. He has also become known around the state in the high schools and has spoken with students from other districts about how they might speak up against standardized testing.

School Censored You Can Refuse Poster:

 See Jason's speech in front of the district board of education on 1/20/15

Melissa Tomlinson

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