Anti-testing parents protested district policies that prohibit their children from engaging in alternative activities.
WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. – It's safe to say Makenna Weaver will probably be bored in school on Tuesday.
"Can't read, can't draw," Weaver said. "Can't do anything."
For a total of 300 minutes this week, the sixth-grader at Mill Middle School in the Williamsville Central School District will be prohibited from engaging in any activity during state English exams, which begin Tuesday and run for three days.
She could, of course, take the test, but she's part of a fraction of students statewide who will decline the tests as a way to protest the new Common Core standards with their parents. According to Williamsville's policies, Weaver cannot bring a book, extra homework or any other material to stay occupied.
About 50 to 60 protesters took to the streets of Williamsville on Monday afternoon with signs and chants, mockingly dubbing this the "sit and stare" policy. The Lancaster Central School District has implemented similar rules for students who refuse to take tests. Coincidentally, Weaver's mother, Julie Cassel, teaches fourth grade at William Street School in the Lancaster district.
"It just seems a little bit ridiculous," Cassel said, "that the children are being forced to sit and literally do absolutely nothing."
Cassel said she she expects at least three of her students to also opt out of testing this week. Her daughter refused the test last year, and due to the same policies, she had to get a little creative to pass the time.
"Her gifted teacher suggested last year that she paint her nails every night and pick the nail polish off," Cassel said. "And she did that successfully, so we will painting her nails all week long."
"Yeah, tonight!" Weaver said.
"Just to keep her busy," Cassel said.
"I mean," Weaver said, "I have to have something to do."
In a statement released to 2 On Your Side, Williamsville Superintendent Scott Martzloff promised there would be no discrimination or backlash against students who refuse to take the exams, but he also reiterated his district's hard stance.
"I want all parents to know that we treat our students with care and compassion, and that will certainly be the case during the administration of these assessments," Martzloff said. "If a student refuses to take the test, he or she can spend the time reading the test quietly for an hour while their classmates are taking the assessments."
Although the protest took place at the corner of Hopkins and Dodge, near the Williamsville Central School District offices and Williamsville North High School, it drew a response from across Western New York. Sara Bucki, for example, has four children in the West Seneca Central Schools, which has a softer policy that allows students to go to the library and work on other activities if they choose not to take the tests.
But that didn't stop Bucki from attending the protest as a way to fight against what she perceives as an injustice.
"I have a child as old as 23. I've been around this testing as long as it has existed," Bucki said. "Had I known when it started it would have come to this, I would have protested 10 years ago."