Students take the STAAR test at East View High School in Georgetown on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Photo: Deborah Cannon
Photo: Deborah Cannon

Georgia lawmakers send school test refusal bill to governor

House Bill 425 passed by wide margins, but Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed similar legislation last year

Students will have a clear right to refuse to take state tests in schools without being punished if Gov. Nathan Deal signs legislation approved by the Georgia Senate Monday.

House Bill 425 says schools cannot punish students who refuse to take standardized state tests and encourages state and local school boards to let students take the tests with paper and pencil rather than on a computer.

The bill by Rep. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, passed 44-9 after passing the House of Representatives on March 3 by a comfortable margin.

Deal vetoed similar legislation, Senate Bill 355, last year.

The Georgia Department of Education has argued that parents can already refuse the test, but advocates for the measure say the law is unclear and that schools punish students by subtle means, such as denying them ice cream after testing or making them stare at a wall during testing.

Parent Stacey Gyorgyi worked with lawmakers on both bills. She said this one was designed to discourage a veto by not specifically saying that students can opt out of testing. Instead, the legislation focuses on possible consequences.

“The parent has a right to refuse whether it’s in law or not,” she said. “What I need is a law that says when the parent refuses, the child will not be punished.” The legislation requires school districts to develop “alternate instructional activities” during testing periods for students who refuse the test.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will again have Georgia’s largest team covering the Legislature. Get complete daily coverage during the legislative session at myAJC.com/georgialegislature.

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