Parents of boy with autism want to change school testing policy

Noah Velasco
Courtesy: WATE

FARRAGUT (WATE) – A Knox County couple wants to change a state policy about standardized testing. The parents say their son, who has autism, shouldn’t be forced to take the tests.

Noah Velasco, 9, is a third grade student at Farragut Intermediate School. His parents say they don’t like the format of a standardized writing test.

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“They have to read a couple of complex passages and answer writing prompts and do this all on the computer in 90 minutes. Noah is in third grade. While he has some computer skills he doesn’t have those kinds of keyboarding essays in order to write an essay about these complex passages. And we looked at it thinking this is developmentally inappropriate,” said Meggie Velasco. “We wanted to eliminate something that might cause him to have frustration and be a trigger in general to possibly cause a tantrum.”

Meggie Valesco
Meggie Valesco

Meggie says she and her husband Adam Velasco emailed seven people at Noah’s school, including the principal and two of Noah’s teachers two weeks before the test demanding that Noah not be given the exam.

“Since Noah has autism and cannot legally make his own educational decisions, we are his voice,” said Meggie Velasco. “We chose for him not to take it and refused for him because we are within our parental and legal rights to do that.”

Meggie says Farragut principal Reggie Mosley emailed her back saying that parents can’t opt out their children in Tennessee, but students can refuse to take the text. Noah was given the exam on March 4 and he didn’t refuse to take the test.

“When we spoke to him at home, he didn’t make the connection that was the test we talk to him about not taking, He’s only recently make that connection,” said Meggie Velasco.

Adam Valesco
Adam Valesco

Both parents say they’re frustrated, but they can’t go back and change that Noah was given the test. Moving forward, they don’t want this to happen again.

“What we’d like to see is a policy in place just returning the parental rights back to the parents in this particular situation,” said Adam Velasco.

Knox County Schools spokesperson Melissa Ogden says, according to state guidelines, there are no opt-out provisions.

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