In recent years, the New York State Education Department and many school districts have threatened and tried to intimidate parents and students who wanted to opt out of state testing. The historic U.S. Supreme Court decision Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) protects the right of parents to make decisions about their own children. This decision is apt in the current environment, where the state has decided that every child must sit for a pointless standardized test, without regard to their parent’s wishes.

That decision protected the right of Catholic schools to exist at a time when they were under threat of closure. The Court affirmed that parents could choose the school their child attended, though it did not say that the public was bound to pay for private choices. The key point in the decision was that ” The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Now Senator Robert Jackson, himself a historic figure in the fight for fair funding for public schools, has introduced legislation to protect students and parents and to prevent school officials from bullying them if they wish to opt out of state testing. Students are not the mere creatures of the state; their parents “have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare them for additional obligations,” including the obligation to resist injustice and official stupidity. As Senator Jackson affirms, schools should inform parents of their right to opt out and should not use pressure, threats or rewards to compel them to take state tests if they choose to not take them in protest against their meaninglessness and possible harm to the student’s education.