As Washington BADASS Teachers (WA-BATS), we believe that everyone should do anything and everything they can to fight the so-called “reforms” that are destroying our public schools.
Unfortunately, the reality is that currently employed educational employees have to be very careful about how vocal they are. Many school administrators threaten teachers with discipline, including probation and suspension without pay if they dare to inform parents of their right to opt children out of tests.
Most teachers need to keep their jobs, but ah!, there is such liberation in being able to retire! Three retired Highline teachers, Donna Shaman, Keitha Bryson, Karen Adlum (that’s me) have decided to promote the OPT OUT movement, because, dammit, we finally can! No school administrator can cow us. No superintendent can fire us. The freedom this gives us is exhilarating!
Newly retired, and committed to the struggle, I was sitting at home when I saw a Facebook message come in to Keitha and myself from Donna Shaman . Donna wanted to know if we were interested in meeting to discuss, “engaging in very visible” ways to share about Opting Out/Refusing the Tests. She mentioned going to festivals, schools, and businesses with signs to draw attention our cause. “We can sing!”, she wrote. “We can talk to people and hand out literature!”
This is my first year as a retiree. I have been an education activist for several years. The Opt Out movement has been my passion ever since I became an anti-school DE-form activist. I even talked about it to any parents who I trusted enough not “squeal” on me. It was frustrating because I couldn’t talk to enough of them, but it was such a rush when I learned that four parents had opted their children out of tests after listening to my advice. So of course, I immediately responded to Donna, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
At our first meeting, Donna described an interesting vision to us. She thought we should dress up as “Opt Out Cheerleaders” with pom poms and other regalia.
Frankly, this made me squeamish at first. It’s not easy for me to be noticeable. I had tried to be a support person; to stay in the background during my teaching career. This was way outside my comfort zone, but Donna was excited about the prospect.
We continued to meet regularly to plan and schedule our first Opt Out Pep Rallies. I was very nervous, but it was far off in the future, so I just ignored my anxiety. We checked into ordinances and school dismissal times, parking availability, etcetera.
Finally, the day arrived for our first action. I had butterflies in my stomach, but thought, “Oh, what the hell!” We met at the school and stood on the sidewalk because we knew we were within our rights if we stayed off school property. It went off without a problem, and while parents looked bemused, they did read our shirts and our signs, and they listened to our chants. Perhaps a seed was planted?
Our little group has since done actions at several more schools, and it has gotten easier for me. I am having a great time calling out the deception of the testing regime!
I have even gotten brave enough to yell things such as, “Don’t take the false tests! Your child is more than a score! Don’t take the SBAC!”
We are beginning to upgrade our outfits. We now have matching skirts and hats, and we have designed a new shirt which we are having printed. We are finding our way in this impassioned new venture. It feels terrific to be doing something to slow down the testocracy’s machine, while being creative.
We have printed flyers which we recently had translated into Spanish, and we plan to add more translations in the future.
We pass out information to any parent who will take it while doing our cheers : “Hey, Hey, why are we here? To tell the parents, ‘OPT OUT THIS YEAR!” Sometimes the parents ask questions, and sometimes they just smile, but they always notice us. And that’s something. The Opt Out movement isn’t as big in Washington State as it is in New York YET, but we hope we are doing our bit to move it forward.
If you have any interest in joining us or starting your own group, please feel free to contact us at: Gyzmotoo@aol.com We would love to share what we did to begin our work, and to design our flyers. We’d be glad to share our successes and our thoughts for improvement with you. Opt Out! Fight back! Let’s get this party started!
Karen Adlum, WA-BATS