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No ice cream: Common Core's rollout rocky in New York

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Seirra Olivero, 13, of Sparrowbush, N.Y., said she was given a two-day suspension after telling fellow students they could opt out of the Common Core English test administered at her school last week. (FoxNews.com/AP)

Angry parents, at least one student suspended and -- in one school district -- children denied ice cream.

Such has been the roll-out of Common Core testing in New York, the first state to implement the test component of the controversial nationalized educational standard.

Seirra Olivero, a 13-year-old student at Orange-Ulster BOCES, claims she was suspended from school last week after telling classmates they could opt out of taking the Common Core English test -- a decision few students and parents in the area knew was possible, according to the girl's mother.

The eighth-grader was suspended for two days for "insubordination," following the April 1 incident, in which she informed her friends they had a choice whether or not to take the exam on the day of the test. According to Seirra, she had just stepped off the school bus when she encountered a fellow classmate who was "anxious" about taking the test.

"I think it was done as a slap on the hand to those of us who refused."

- Julianne Merry, mother of child in Arkmont, N.Y.

"I told my friend he didn’t have to take the test and then a teacher who overheard me told me to shut my mouth and keep walking," Seirra told FoxNews.com. Once inside the school, Seirra told another friend the test was not mandatory, she says, prompting that same teacher to usher her into the principal's office. After walking out of the principal's office following an argument and then threatening to sue an administrator over his handling of the matter, Seirra was given a two-day suspension.

Her mother, Carin Beauchesne of Sparrowbush, N.Y., claims her daughter was being bullied by the administrators and said their actions were not justified. 

"I am very upset and the principal hasn't even spoken to me yet," Beauchesne said. "Seirra's never been suspended before. She’s never even been to the principal. She’s a very, very good girl."

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"As long as she's not hurting someone, she should be able to talk about whatever she wants. I don’t understand what the problem was," Beauchesne said, noting that she has filed a complaint under the state's Dignity for All Students Act. 

Seirra's account, however, doesn't jibe with the school's record of the incident. 

While Orange-Ulster BOCES's superintendent William Hecht said he could not comment an individual student's case, he said, "On that day, we had nine other students who opted out of taking the test and they were not disciplined." 

"We do discipline for violating the code of conduct," he told FoxNews.com.

In Arkport, N.Y., meanwhile, parents are complaining over a decision by school officials to reward students who took the Common Core English test with ice cream, while denying it to those children who opted out of the exam.

Julianne Merry, a mother of three who is staunchly opposed to the Common Core curriculum, said students in third through sixth grades who took the test last week at Arkport Central School were given ice cream afterward.

While Merry's children were not directly affected, she said she thought the decision was a poor one. 

"Some say 'bribery,' but it was never offered beforehand. I don't think it was done to reward to those children who took the test. I think it was done as a slap on the hand to those of us who refused," she told FoxNews.com.

"They're punishing the kids for a choice made by their parents," said Merry, who has children in the second, seventh and ninth grades.

Arkport School Superintendent Glenn Niles defended the school's actions, telling WLEA News that, "We try to do a simple token, as we've done every year that we've ever tested." 

"This year was no different," he reportedly said. "We just had more kids that didn't take the tests, and therefore, it was a little bigger deal, so we will evaluate what we do in the future."

Not so, claims Merry.

"They say that they have done this in the past, but that’s not true," she said. "The administration had never offered a reward to the children for taking a test."

Parents in various New York school districts have chosen to keep their children from taking the exam.

While her son's fourth-grade classmates were taking the nation's first round of tests under the Common Core program, Heidi Indilecato decided to teach her son a lesson in civil disobedience.

“We respectfully refuse to participate in the test,” said Indelicato, whose son Benjamin attends school in Lancaster, N.Y.

So while other kids sat poised with their No. 2 pencils above Scantron sheets, Benjamin studied with his mother, who documented the occasion with a picture of the pair wearing T-shirts that read: "Keep calm and and refuse the NYS tests."

 

 

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