Graduation exams for Old Believer students

Прежде мы уже сообщале о борьбе старообрядцев Аляски за право перенсти школьные экзамены с Пасхальной седмицы на иное время. И, как стало сегодня известно, власти признали за ними это право и разрешили перенсти экзамены с 6-8 Апреля на 29 Марта — 2 Апреля. Это решение коснется примерно 25 старообрядческих учеников в селениях Качемак-Село, Раздольна, Вознесенка и Николаевск. Это же право признано и за старообрядческими школьниками в Gerstle River School в школьном округе Delta-Greely. Все подробности — в статье М. Армстронга, опубликованной в Homer News.

Old Believer students can take graduation exams a week early State OKs alternate test dates

BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development will allow Homer area Russian Old Believer students to take High School Graduation Qualifying Exams on an alternate week other than the Old Believer Holy Week.

Exams are scheduled for April 6-8, but those dates happen during Holy Week in the Old Believer religious calendar. Their religious beliefs would not have allowed them to take tests during Holy Feast Days in the week, Old Believer families said.

Students at Kachemak Selo, Voznesenka, Razdolna and Nikolaevsk schools can take qualifying exams during the week of March 29-April 2, Erik McCormick, assessment director for DEED, wrote in a letter to Sean Dusek, director of secondary education for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

Students will have to sign confidentiality waivers to take the tests. Dusek said about 25 students — none of them seniors — are affected by the decision.

«I’m just pleased that the kids will have the opportunity to test and move forward,» Dusek said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska sent a request dated Feb. 9 to Commissioner of Education Larry LeDoux and copied to Attorney General Dan Sullivan asking for alternative testing dates. It set a date of Feb. 22 asking for a reply. Voznesenka families had asked ACLU Alaska to represent them, said Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU executive director. In his letter, Thomas Stenson, staff attorney for ACLU Alaska, cited federal and state rulings in his request to the state as to why the state should grant a religious exemption to the Old Believer students.

«The Alaska Constitution guarantees all children the right to an education, and its Free Exercise Clause ensures that the sincere and deeply held religious beliefs of these families are protected from state rules that impinge on their religious freedom,» Mittman said.

Old Believer families had appealed to the KPBSD Board of Education to accommodate students. Stan White, a Voznesenka teacher and resident, raised the issue at the board’s October 2009 meeting in Homer.

«We’re a pretty small community out here, and sometimes it’s hard to get agencies and the government to respond to our needs,» White said. «I think the ACLU of Alaska made a big difference in how the state responded to this situation.»

The waiver came in response to Dusek’s request for alternate testing dates, said Eric Fry, an information officer for DEED. Fry said DEED officials and staff had been thinking about the issue and made the decision to grant alternate dates on its own and not in response to the ACLU.

Last fall, the state had denied an appeal by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. No exceptions could be made, McCormick said last October.

«If we were to allow kids to take it at a different time, we could violate our own contract,» he said in October. «We have contractual obligations, we have federal law responsibilities. It’s unfortunate.»

More recently, DEED had been in discussions with Dusek, director of secondary education for the KPBSD, McCormick said in the letter to Dusek granting his more recent request.

Following the denial of the KPB school district’s initial appeal last fall, the district continued the appeal process, Dusek said. The ACLU told the district it was working with Old Believer families on its own to resolve the issue.

«We just kept being persistent,» Dusek said. «It was a long process, but you know, that’s just part of what we do to get the kids to test.»

High school students can first take the qualifying exam in the spring of their sophomore year. Tests are given in the fall and spring of each school year. Students have to pass all portions of the exam to receive high school diplomas. Dusek said KPB students generally do well on the exam.

«The nice thing is there is a high success rate with almost all our students passing this the first time they take it,» he said.

DEED will work with Data Recognition Corporation, the company that creates the test, to make sure students have the test earlier, McCormick wrote the KPB school district.

Dusek said the school district appreciated the early notice so it could take time to prepare for the alternate test dates.

The ACLU Alaska also had asked the state to allow other Russian Old Believer students in Alaska to have alternate testing dates. Fry said a similar waiver had been granted to Old Believer students at Gerstle River School in the Delta-Greely School District.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong.@homernews.com.

http://homernews.com/stories/022410/news_1_004.shtml

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Old Believers and Old Ritualists Join us if you want to make our Old Believer and Old Rite Church pure! Paul, Max and all our faithful team
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