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Jun 21, 2013 2:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton High School Teachers Wear Black To Protest Student's Testing Accommodation

Jun 26, 2013 11:11 AM
A number of teachers at Southampton High School wore black T-shirts as they wrapped up the school year on Friday.

According to at least one teacher, they were protesting the fact that a student whose parent works at the school had special accommodations when taking a Regents exam on June 18.

The decision was made by High School Principal Dr. Brian Zahn just a few days before the test, according to Southampton Superintendent Dr. J. Richard Boyes. To protect the student, the superintendent declined to go into many specifics, but he did say that “a parent expressed concern about the high level of anxiety that a student was experiencing as the student prepared for a Regents exam.”

At the parent’s request, the student was allowed to take the chemistry exam in a smaller classroom rather than the gymnasium, the superintendent said. “And I think people disagreed with that decision. Some teachers have protested that—and that’s what this whole issue is about.”

Under normal circumstances, certain students with special needs can have individual accommodations, such as extended time limits, having a test read aloud to them or taking it in a smaller room to minimize distractions. However, Dr. Boyes said that building principals also grant accommodations at their discretion.

Dr. Zahn, the principal, said two students were accommodated during end-of-year testing after showing symptoms of “short-term disability” brought on by anxiety, with one showing signs of nausea. They were seen by the director of special education, Denise Merchant, and either by Dr. Zahn or by the assistant principal, Esther Adler-O’Keefe, before the decision to accommodate them was made, according to Dr. Zahn, who said that ultimately the decision rested with him.

There had been no favoritism for the student whose parent works at the school, the principal said, adding that the parent’s classroom happened to be one of two rooms used for accommodation during the Regents exam.

“We have split opinion in the district as to whether it was warranted,” Dr. Boyes said of the decision to administer the test separately, adding that the criticism does raise “the larger issue of, a lot of kids have anxiety ... Some kids can work themselves in a terrible nervous condition.”

“There are very much high levels of anxiety going around all over the place,” Dr. Zahn said, mentioning teachers and administrators in addition to the students themselves.

According to Dr. Zahn, some of the teachers wearing black shirts on Friday told him it was “to protest testing improprieties,” while others said it was “to voice our displeasure with testing overall.” One teacher who asked not to be named said an email had gone out that urged all teachers to wear black “in support of academic integrity,” and that roughly 80 percent were wearing black by the end of the day.

School was over on Friday, but students and staff were attending graduation rehearsal, and teachers were grading tests. Southampton Teachers Association President Sean Brand said the protest had not been organized by the union, and was spawned out of frustration about “how education is mandated.”

“Whether you’re wearing black or not … I firmly believe that everyone here has the best interests of our students at heart,” the principal said.

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Hmm I would rather they be in a small room distracting no one when they throw up in the middle of the test.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Jun 21, 13 7:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
They need either medication or different parents. That said, pretty immature on the part of the teachers, there are other ways of handling, such as a letter to the board of regents if something is out of line or outside guidelines.
By smacw (240), New York on Jun 21, 13 7:52 PM
What's the principal going to do when multiple parents request special accomodations for their kids during regents time? Given the fact that they all make similar arguments, it would certainly appear bias if he granted this for just a few chosen ones. Poor decision-making Mr. Principal. Did you allow the parent to stay in the room and hold the kid's hand, too?
By hamptonite (26), hamptons on Jun 21, 13 8:14 PM
I don't think it is bad judgement at all! What difference does it make? Let the child take the test in a small room where he or she is less anxious! Some kids can not function when they get so worked up. It is only a Regent test given once a year. The teacher should have complained and wore black ,when they "dumbed" down the school by eliminating the Valedictorian and Salutatorian . The reason, kids feel bad and lose self esteem when they can't achieve that!I say get rid of all competitive sports ...more
By bayview (160), Southampton on Jun 21, 13 8:38 PM
3 members liked this comment
That is so sad that teachers would make a student feel bad! Granted if you agreed with the principal or not, I believe that this was done in bad taste!
By NorthRd90 (7), Southampton on Jun 21, 13 8:54 PM
Wearing black T-shirts causes everyone anxiety. Time to grow up and handle things with class and professionalism.
By peacemaker (23), Sag Harbor on Jun 21, 13 9:12 PM
The whole school faculty is made up of people who knew people who got them hired. Taxpayers should wear Black for paying such stupid teachers with such stupid actions. The district shouldn't give special treatment, but the teachers are really ridiculing the students which is wrong. Its amazing we pay the Superintendant 300k a year and he can't see this decision could be a problem.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 22, 13 7:55 AM
Whats more importanat..the kid or the teachers here? Maybe the kid will do better and then the teacher will "look" better. Wearing black tshirts..shame on you highly paid ,barely accountable group of teachers..how did you make that kid feel? Get over yourselves and try to remember why you got into education to begin with..its not about you..mountain out of a molehill..thumbs down.
By gansetteer (125), East Hampton on Jun 22, 13 10:06 AM
4 members liked this comment
This says more about the teachers than the student.

The faculty should be embarrassed.

The teacher is the child. I find it quite funny how the faculty doesn't realize how made it makes them look.

Perhaps it is time to for the real adults the students to protest the teachers.
By Rondo123 (1), New York on Jun 22, 13 12:10 PM
Are we to assume the students can protest in kind against the Administrators?

By auntof9 (159), Southampton on Jun 22, 13 2:40 PM
Most of the teachers I know would not protest a student needed a particular accommodation in order to better prove his/her mastery of the subject matter. This sounds like a union vs. administration issue in which an innocent child found himself in the middle. As far as teaching a child the life lesson that comes from getting through adversity, that's nowhere on the academic transcript and falls more under the job of the parent.
By KevinLuss (356), Detroit, Michigan on Jun 22, 13 4:47 PM
Children identified with disabilities ought to be given some leeway as they learn to cope with them. Others should not be given special accommodations simply because they are nervous or upset about a test. By that standard, half the student body would be in separate areas. This child could always retake the regents this summer if needed. However, if the child in question was having trouble that would bother others taking the test, such as wheezing with asthma brought on by stress, absolutely allow ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jun 23, 13 11:23 AM
Those teachers are truly in need of some educational training regarding students with disabilities. Are they even qualified to teach? Some disability counseling is definitely in order. They should be laid off and given some proper counseling before they teach anymore students.
By carol adrianne (2), east hampton on Jun 24, 13 9:15 AM
Since when did nervousness become a disability?
By bubby (236), southampton on Jun 24, 13 11:35 AM
2 members liked this comment
This studen had NO disability. His mother said he was stressed about taking the test (which most kids are). He was given special treatment because his mother works at the school. THAT IS THE PROBLEM!
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Jul 2, 13 9:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
What's not being said in this article is that the child was placed in the classroom that her parent was working in. At least that's what I heard via the rumor mill. That might be what has everyone so concerned. I understand trying to ease the kids anxiety, don't really have a problem with it...but placing the child in a classroom where their parent was working...that could be viewed as inappropriate by some. I don't think this is going to end with teachers wearing black t-shirts.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Jun 24, 13 12:26 PM
If indeed he was placed in a room with his mother and no other people were there, then the principal and the mother should be summarily dismissed. That's an outrageous conflict of interest. What's to stop the mother from helping the son with the test. Did the mother have a degree in Chemistry too?

This is mickey mouse educational administration. Southampton and Tuckahoe do indeed deserve each other. A marriage made in Heaven.
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jun 25, 13 5:03 AM
Agreed. They should be summarily dismissed. There is no equality in this decision. This child is not to blame, but should go through the proper testing procedures just as the rest of us do to be granted special accommodations. And certainly that would NEVER be appropriate with a parent.

By Shinnecock Hills family (59), Southampton on Jul 6, 13 8:02 PM
If you want kids to feel equal treat them equal.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 24, 13 5:31 PM
I submit that once a child reaches high school, it's time for mommy & daddy to stop babying him/her. Tests separate the wheat from the chaff.
By JohnM (7), Hampton Bays on Jun 25, 13 9:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
I do agree that the staff/faculty wear black in protest was a bit over the top. That being said, if the student did not have an IEP expressly stating he/she should take the test in a separate location, the fact that the student had this accomodation and others did not is absolutely UNFAIR. PERIOD. You can't all of a sudden throw modifications in when they do not exist through SPED.
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Jun 28, 13 1:07 PM
"Dr. Boyes said that building principals also grant accommodations at their discretion."

On a NYS Regents test? Are you sure about that?
By lucy2 (63), Southampton, NY on Jun 30, 13 10:52 AM