State, districts look to scuttle 'opt out' case

The state Department of Education and school districts are asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject an appeal in a case filed by parents opposed to standardized tests --- an issue that involves what is known as the “opt out” movement.

The dispute stems from parents who told third-grade students to put their names on a standardized test, then refuse to answer questions.

When the students were barred from moving to fourth grade under state law, the parents sued, saying they wanted their children to be evaluated using a portfolio allowed in the case of "good cause exemptions."

A Leon County circuit judge issued a decision last year that seemed to support the “opt out” movement.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal in March overturned that decision, prompting the parents to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The Department of Education and the school boards in Pasco, Hernando and Seminole counties filed briefs this week arguing that justices should not hear the case.

They argued, at least in part, that lawsuits should have been filed against the school boards in their home counties, rather than in Leon County.

A Pasco County brief, for example, said the parents “chose this venue despite the fact that none of them reside in Leon County, none of their children attend school in Leon County, (and) none of the alleged constitutional or statutory violations occurred in Leon County.”

But in a brief filed last month, an attorney for the parents pointed to the statewide issues involved and said litigating the issues in different counties would “create judicial chaos because, in this case, no less than six separate trial court jurisdictions and three district courts will be required to adjudicate claims that share identical issues of law.”