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Refusing to take a standardized test

An interesting case of test-refusal. Reaction and support in the
homeschooling community is mixed.
Home-schooling standoff in Waltham

By Melissa Beecher / CNC Staff Writer
Friday, June 13, 2003

WALTHAM -- A legal battle over two home-schooled children exploded into a
seven-hour standoff yesterday, when they refused to take a standardized test
ordered by the Department of Social Services.

George Nicholas Bryant, 15, and Nyssa Bryant, 13, stood behind their
parents, Kim and George, as police and DSS workers attempted to collect the
children at 7:45 a.m. DSS demanded that the two complete a test to determine
their educational level.

After a court order was issued by Framingham Juvenile Court around 1 p.m.,
the children were driven by their parents to a Waltham hotel.

Again, they refused to take the test.

"The court order said that the children must be here. It said nothing about
taking the test," said George Bryant.

The second refusal came after an emotion-filled morning for the family, when
DSS workers sternly demanded the Bryants comply with their orders.

"We have legal custody of the children and we will do with them as we see
fit," DSS worker Susan Etscovitz told the Bryants in their Gale Street home.
"They are minors and they do what we tell them to do."

Four police officers were also at the scene and attempted to coax the
Bryants to listen to the DSS worker.

"We are simply here to prevent a breach of the peace," said Waltham Youth
Officer Detective James Auld. "We will will not physically remove the

Yesterday's events are the continuation of a six-year legal battle between
the family and Waltham Public Schools and the state.

The Bryants contend that the city and state do not have the legal right to
force their children to take standardized tests, even though DSS workers
have threatened to take their children from them.

"There have been threats all along. Most families fall to that bullying by
the state and the legal system," said George Bryant.

"But this has been a six-year battle between the Waltham Public Schools and
our family over who is in control of the education of our children," Bryant
continued. "In the end the law of this state will protect us."

The Bryant children have never attended public school.

Both sides agree that the children are in no way abused mentally,
physically, sexually or emotionally, but legal custody of the children was
taken from Kim and George Bryant in December 2001. The children will remain
under the legal custody of DSS until their 16th birthdays.

The parents have been ruled as unfit because they did not file educational
plans or determine a grading system for the children, two criteria of
Waltham Public School's home schooling policy.

"We do not believe in assessing our children based on a number or letter.
Their education process is their personal intellectual property," said

George Bryant said he was arrested six years ago, after not attending a
meeting that the city contends he was summoned to. The meeting was called by
the Waltham School Department for his failure to send his children to

"We want these issues aired in the open, in public. The school system and
DSS have fought to keep this behind closed doors," said Bryant.

Superintendent of Schools Susan Parrella said she was unaware of yesterday's
incident and that, currently the school department approves of the education
plan filed by DSS for the Bryant children.

"An acceptable home school plan is in place right now," said Parrella. "I
was not aware of any testing occurring today."

The Bryant children freely admit that they have no intention of taking a

"We don't want to take the test. We have taken them before and I don't think
they are a fair assessment of what we know," said Nyssa Bryant. "And no one
from DSS has ever asked us what we think."

Kenneth Pontes, area director of DSS, denied that workers have never talked
to the children privately, but admitted that this type of case isn't often
seen by his office.

"This is an unusual case. Different school systems require different
regulations for home-schooled children. Waltham requires testing," said

Pontes said that a possibility exists that the children will be removed from
their home, but that was a last course of action.

"No one wants these children to be put in foster homes. The best course of
action would for (the Bryants) to instruct the children to take the test,"
said Etscovitz.

The Bryant family is due in Framingham District Court this morning, to go
before a juvenile court judge. According to DSS, this session will determine
what their next course of action will be and if the children will be removed
from the Bryants' home.

"These are our children and they have and always will be willing
participants in their education," said Kim Bryant.

Homeschooling stand-off in Waltham (6/12)

for background on Mass homeschooling law see:
or http://www.masshope.org/fr_getting_started.html

More on the Case: