When a system is pressured irrationally, it will start going haywire. The Eugene 4J School District decided to pressure parents to think about whether their personal/religious beliefs are legitimate. Oregon law provides that parents/guardians or students may opt-out due to physical disability or “religious beliefs” (read our How to Opt-Out page). Here’s the essential phrase from Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 581-022-1910:
(1) The school district may excuse students from a state required program or learning activity, where necessary, to accommodate students’ disabilities or religious beliefs
Districts and administrators being told to produce-test-scores-or-perish are tempted to lose sight of the rights of students, families, teachers, and principals. They will lose sight of the humanity of the people in their schools in favor of widget production quotas and other assembly line & factory metaphors. We’ve heard of building principals here and there challenging parents & students on their personal/religious beliefs, but Eugene is the first major Oregon school district that has stepped into this dehumanizing territory in a big way.
As reported in Eugene Weekly in a terrific piece about the growing opt-out movement in Eugene, the local school district has decided Oregon law isn’t enough. Read this galling maneuver (emphasis ours):
The 4J district’s form elaborates on this by adding the words “sincerely held” and requiring parents to initial a statement that reads, “The term ‘religious beliefs’ means religious, moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious convictions. Merely wishing to avoid testing, or having political or social objections to testing not based on sincerely held religious belief, do not meet the requirements for the exemption.”
Districts are not completely obliged to accept opting-out requests due to religious reasons, but the smart ones do. Smart school districts do not want to get into the muck of telling parents and students whether held personal/religious beliefs are legitimate or not. By adding its own bureaucratic-ese to Oregon law, and acting like a religious legitimacy detector, the Eugene School District is being shortsighted and stupid. Take that dumb scare tactic off your form, Eugene 4J School District. You’re better than that.