Vaccines, FSA, Santa Claus and a side of Baloney

On 2/29/16, the Tampa Bay Times reported Florida Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, in a conference call with superintendents, stated her belief that students not wanting to sit for the state mandated assessments should leave their public schools.

We all know there have been questions about opt out and that there were situations where this occurred last year. Section 1008.22, F.S., regarding statewide, standardized assessments, states clearly that participation is mandatory for all districts and all students attending public schools. My belief is that students that do not want to test should not be sitting in public schools, as it is mandatory and required for students seeking a standard high school diploma. Statewide, standardized assessments are part of requirement to attend school, like immunization records. That is our message and what we send to you to be shared with your staff.”

This, of course, is total baloney. We began to write a response regarding how testing SHOULD be more like vaccines: people would never be required to administer an experimental vaccine to their children yet students are mandated to participate in an unvalidated state assessment, part of this giant experiment known as “education reform,” despite the FSA’s known associated risks (retention, remediation, inability to graduate) and significant side effects (rising levels of anxiety, depression and suicide amongst school aged children). Parents with a moral objection to the use of high stakes standardized testing in public schools should be able to file for an exemption and students, especially special needs students for which grade level assessments should be considered abusive, should be able to qualify for medical (or, perhaps, common sense?) exemptions.

While making the finishing edits on our blog, Darcey Addo, a National Board Certified Teacher, parent and education advocate (who is currently running for School Board in Brevard County) issued this brilliant response, which we are republishing in it’s entirety with Ms. Addo’s permission. She said what we wanted to say, and then some. Thank you, Darcey.

You can find out more about Darcey Addo at If you live in Brevard County, please support her candidacy for School Board. You could not find a better voice for children.

Tests, vaccines and Santa Claus: An open letter to Commissioner Stewart about imposing your beliefs on my kids

March 1, 2016

Darcey Addo

Dear Commissioner Stewart

With all due respect, the notes from your February 29, 2016 call with superintendents indicating, “My belief is that students that do not want to test should not be sitting in public schools,” have been duly noted. 

 My belief, Commissioner Stewart, is that any Commissioner of Education who wants to throw children out of public school has a warped sense of democracy. Be that as it may, it is neither your place nor mine to share our beliefs as though they are fact. 

 I am not at liberty to impose my beliefs about assessment with my students. I use professional judgment, and I expect the same from you. When making decisions for our children, my husband and I are in charge. We do not take into account your beliefs, Commissioner. 

 Your statement of belief, in conjunction with your direction to superintendents “share this message with staff”, is no more appropriate than a direction telling us for whom we ought to vote, to whom you would like us to bow our heads and pray, or whether or not ​​we should teach our children about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. These are reflective of your beliefs, Commissioner. You are wholly entitled to your beliefs, but I will remind you of the Code of Ethics & Principles of Professional Conduct, which guides our practice. 

Our profession requires that we, “…take reasonable precautions to distinguish between personal views and those of any educational institution or organization with which [we are] affiliated”, and that we “not use institutional privileges for personal gain or advantage”. You, Ms. Stewart, are an educator. You must not represent your beliefs as law. 

​​Furthermore, since you made reference to immunizations, I thought you might want to review Chapter 1003 of Florida Statutes, specifically 1003.22(5)(a)(b)(c)(d). While immunizations are required to enter public school, Florida law makes explicit provisions for parents who object. These provisions include “rligious tenets or practices” (5a), “clinical reasoning or evidence from a physician” (5b), situations when the “child has received as many immunizations as are medically indicated…” (5c), orwhen “any required immunization is unnecessary or hazardous” (5d). So, if we’re going to use the immunization analogy, perphaps it’s more appropriate to use the entire analogy, exemptions included.

So, Ms. Stewart, please keep your beliefs to yourself so we can resume the business of restoring democracy to public education.

Darcey Addo


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