Sunday, September 27, 2015

Some Thoughts about the History of Opt Out

Right now there is a lot of discussion around the history of Opt Out. Ultimately Opt Out has been around for years. Here in Colorado, Don Perl refused to administer the test to his students in 2001- for starters! Also in 2001, Scarsdale, New York moms opted their 8th graders out of the state tests.

And while I appreciate the work and historical sharing of Opt Out via NPE it's important to recognize that Opt Out began long before any of us - including UOO. And, in actuality, New York Opt Out began as a result of NY folks attending UOO's Occupy the DOE - folks like Susan Schutt, Jean Schutt McTavish, Sara Wottawa, Gail DeBonis Richmond, Elizabeth Loizidis Lynch, Susan Horton Polos, and Kris Nielsen, all from NY came to Occupy DOE 2.0 and took Opt Out straight back to NY. They have always stated clearly that UOO's Occupy the DOE was the catalyst for Opt Out in NY. (my apologies if I forgot anyone  - see the schedule for additional folks from NY who also spoke!)

On March 2, 2013, Jeanette Deutermann (current LI Opt Out Leader) contacted me for support with Opt Out. Chris Cerrone, one of the UOO NY Opt Out Leaders, had already started Opt Out in upstate New York and I directed Jeanette to Chris Cerrone.  Sara Wottawa was the original LI Opt Out leader. So, NY Opt Out had already begun - I just think it's important to acknowledge the roots of this work. Chris Cerrone, Sara Wottawa and all the folks that attended Occupy DOE 2.0 were instrumental in getting NY Opt Out moving!

In addition, the launch of nationwide Opt Out occurred due to United Opt Out National supporting folks statewide in creating their own grassroots Opt Out groups - we created FB files for every state and eventually shifted this to our state guides at our website. We started UOO in August of 2011. And in 2011 our FB page was swamped with parents, students, teachers, and community members who utilized our resources and created their own local Opt Out groups (so many I can't list them - and many created without our support!). Many of the founders of UOO were also at the Save our Schools March in July of 2011 - which preceded the launch of UOO in August of 2011.

Another misconception is that only parents led Opt Out when it originated. UOO was created by six folks in 2011 - five of them teachers. And if you look just at Colorado - as I mentioned above, Don Perl refused to administer the test, and also - Angela Engel of Uniting 4 Kids (also a former teacher in CO) was sharing Opt Out information long before I joined in this important work! Also - of the NY folks I've listed - 7 out of 8 are teachers.

Teachers were very much leaders in the Opt Out movement - I think this is very important to share because teachers did step up and speak the truth. As a teacher, it's VERY important to me because I wouldn't want folks to think teachers have stayed silent during this nightmare. In addition, Ceresta Smith (UOO founder) opted her child out in 2011 as did Tim Slekar (UOO founder) and Michelle Gray from PA.  All of this is documented via blogs, emails and our book as well. No disrespect to anyone meant by this post - but it's just important to acknowledge folks who indeed were a part of the grassroots organizing to make this happen. This is the work of so many people - it truly is the people's movement - solidarity to all of you.


  1. I agree that it is important to recognize the roots of the Opt Out Movement. I was there in April of 2011 opting my son out with the support of United Opt Out leaders. Those first months were interesting on Facebook! We ended up splitting away from those in the group who wanted to opt out of public school altogether. It has been an amazing journey so far, and I thank the United Opt Out leaders for starting the national movement and supporting each state.

  2. I wondered why I deleted a certain piece I read earlier. It just didn't seem right to me. Thank you for broadening this for us -- I knew so much was missing.
    And my first exposure to the horrors of CC was Susan Ohanian -- I met two mothers in San Francisco who opted their children out in 1990s with Susan's encouragement.
    Thank you Peggy!

  3. Oh the good old day ...... Occupy the DOE......... 1 and 2! Loved them!