Press Release
For Immediate Release
April 9, 2019


Once again Buffalo school administrators are using false statements, intimidating calls to parents, intimidating meetings with students, excluding students not taking the tests from socials, drawings, etc.

Last year, in response to alarmed parents and teachers, the BTF alerted the Superintendent, Board of Education and Board of Regents to the actions taken by some school administrators to intimidate and coerce students and parents to participate in state testing.

“Once again some Buffalo school administrators are attempting to undermine parents who, in the interests of their children, have chosen to not have their children take the state tests.

Pressuring parents and students with false and discriminatory actions is in my opinion the worst form of bullying and child abuse”, stated Phil Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

The following are but a few of the actions reported to the BTF by parents and teachers.

School 3:

  • Raffle tickets for a Kindle Fire are being given to test takers. It was specifically said that students who do not take the test will not get a ticket.
    It was suggested that there might be a pizza party for the students who made the school proud by taking the test.
  • Students were told “Kids who take the test are doing the right thing.” (Implying that not taking the test is bad.)
  • Students were told that the only reason kids don’t take the test is because they don’t want to work.
  • Students were told, “Because I care about you and want what’s best for you, I want you to take the test.” (Implying that if someone is telling them not to take the test, like a parent, they don’t love or care for them.)
  • Students were also told, “If you aren’t taking the test, you’ll be sitting in the auditorium doing nothing for three hours.”
  • After sending in letters refusing the test, parents were called and pressured to reverse their decision.
  • It has been reported that students who did not take the test were made to watch a PowerPoint presentation on how important the test is.
  • Students were told that taking the test would help them to have enough credits in high school to graduate.
  • There has been significant shaming of non-test-takers.

School #19:

  • Some students brought in Opt-out letters. The administrator took the students out of specials and stated, “If you take the test you will get a prize.” They called home and talked to mom. The student still would not agree to take the test. He was apparently out of classes for 40 minutes and upon returning to the room he was angry and highly agitated. It was reported that the teacher had to use de-escalating techniques because of his emotional state at the time.
  • A student was asked to try and was told there was not an essay. This student hates writing and has melt downs during classes that involve writing and modifications to assignments are used. The second day of 6 short answer and 1 essay resulted in the student pounding his desk, grabbing his face and pushing in his eyes. Teachers report that he does not like writing and this throws him into crises. We understand that at one point, the student wished he could die right then and there.
  • The administrator at School 19 has pulled in every student that brought an opt-out letter to “talk to them”. Harass is more to the point, upsetting students to the point of tears, then calling the parents. We are told one bilingual student told teachers “my mom wrote a letter but I have to take it anyway.” Another student with a disability told the administrator to stop harassing him by repeatedly telling him he had to take the test. There was an announcement saying there would be something special for students after the test. A student in the hall handed a piece of paper to the administrator who said “what’s this?” The student said a “letter to opt out”. The administrator replied “Oh No! Go to the office”.
  • The “teachers asked that their names be left off here… as there is a culture of retaliation.” A few students brought in opt out letters. Teachers were instructed to send the students down to the office with the letters. Mr. Suwala and Wendling interrogated them asking them why they were not taking it. One student said Mr. Suwala said just take it, it doesn’t count as a grade. He went on to say he told them for multiple choice, guess if you don’t know it and just copy from the text for the written part.
  • A student reported that another student was being asked to take the test but the student kept saying no and they brought in other teachers to convince her but she still said no. They were mad.
  • A student told a teacher that he was in trouble for not taking the test. He said they offered him a prize as a bribe and he still wouldn’t. He then said they sent him back to class so he asked for a pass to the auditorium. He said when he got to the auditorium they called him out and tried to make him take it and he wouldn’t so he must be in trouble.
  • A student turned in an opt out letter for the ELA assessment. He was called down to the office. The student told other students in the presence of other teachers that he decided to take the test and he said the principal said he could fail and be left back if he did not take it.

School #37

  • Futures Academy is having an ice cream party only for students who took the test.


School #43

  • The assistant principal sent out an email notifying staff that she was successful at calling parents and getting their “permission” allowing their child to take the test after opting out their child. Students who took the test were given tickets for popsicles at lunch.


School #59:

  • Students had to sit for the ELA exam to be eligible for the roller skating field trip at School #59.


School #67:

  • Every day, students are being told in lunch and over announcements that if they don’t take the test, they are hurting our school. They are being told it is the same thing as a district test and that there is no reason not to take it. The students that have already handed in letters are being pulled out of class and talked into taking the test and administration is calling all parents individually who opt their child out of the test.
  • Teachers are being asked to give students incentives for taking the test and are being asked to encourage all students to participate. There is a pep rally being held on Monday which is all geared towards having students take the test. The students are also being told that a refusal will go on their record and will hurt them when trying to get into a good high schools. The principal is going from classroom to classroom telling students that if they participate they will be able to partake in a huge incentive in June. The principal is telling teachers; “Please encourage students to take the NYS Assessments. We are currently not meeting participation rates in certain grade levels. I am contacting parents as I receive refusal letter. Your support is appreciated!”


School #72

  • We have been advised that Principal Banks told the entire staff at School 72 that he called every parent who opted their child out to coerce them into having their students take the state tests.
  • He succeeded with many because he told them that it wasn’t legal for kids to opt out and we need to have 95% participation. A parent relayed that Principal Banks called and was trying to tell them how important it was and when the parent said no, he said it was federal law that 95% of the students had to take it and they would get fined if they weren't in compliance! He told the students’ class the same thing but added the 5% that don't take the test are intellectually challenged.


School #79

  • There is outside time for everyone that participated in the State Assessment. Anyone that didn't participate has to sit in a room.
    Students are being told there’s no such thing as opt out they have to take the test.
  • Teachers were wrongly told at a faculty meeting that the control of whether to take or not to take the ELA/Math assessment rests squarely on the shoulders of the children. Even if the parents write an Opt-Out letter if the child says, “I want to take the exam” when he/she arrives at school, he/she will take the exam.
  • At School 79 the principal told the staff at a faculty meeting that parents are not allowed to opt-out their children. Their letters mean nothing. The child has to refuse the test themselves.
  • Students who take the test are invited to a fun day and throw a pie at the principal.
  • The administrators allowed students who took the test a field day. They also let students throw pies at them.


School #80

  • Our administrator is offering an ice cream party to students who take the test and is calling parents who sent in opt-out notes to convince them otherwise.
  • Administration at School 80 is offering an activity day for students who take the ELA exam and a dance for taking the math exam.


School #81

  • The principal called parents saying that the tests were important. The school can then see how students are doing, and how the teachers are doing with curriculum. He is saying that there are a lot of benefits that the school gains from taking it. He is stating that it is also part of Federal and State Law that 95% of the students take this test.


School #97

  • The principal is telling the 8th graders that they will not be allowed to go on the camping field trip if they don't take the state assessments. He has also said that they will have to take another class in high school if they don't take their 8th grade assessments.


School #195

  • Parents of City Honors students said some students not taking the tests were made to sit and stare. They were not permitted to even read at City Honors!


School #196/#197

  • Students are given SkyZone passes if they take the test.


Some principals are stating that at a principals meeting, they were advised by Superintendent Cash to provide incentives to students taking the State tests.


“We do not believe that Superintendent Cash would condone the actions listed above. We look forward to him clarifying his alleged statements to principals and his condoning the above degrading and bullying tactics and taking action against all the administrators who are found to have engaged in these actions.”


The BTF also released a statement from Chancellor Betty Rosa and NYSED Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia stating “We would like to remind school leaders of the importance of honoring requests received by parents to opt their children out of the exams” and “parents have a right to opt their children out of these exams” and “we have also heard of isolated but troubling reports of parents’ requests being ignored”.