Arlington High Suspends Student for Tweeting STAAR Test Photo, Inspires Predictable Backlash

Texas has never played around when it comes to its standardized tests, and the STAAR exam, the new assessment whose rigor is currently the center of debate in the state legislature, is no different. As one of the primary ways the state evaluates educational outcomes, and thus ensures accountability, the security, and therefore integrity, of the test is paramount. One can't just leave boxes of the exams sitting unattended in a public high school hallway. And one certainly can't have students tweeting innocuous photos of the mostly blank essay portion of the test.

As WFAA's Monika Diaz reported last night, Arlington High School junior Kyron Birdie did exactly that. "I have the TAKS test to study for, not this unneeded craziness," he wrote on the otherwise clean sheet of lined paper, adding a smiley face and, in bold letters, "YOLO." He then snapped a picture and tweeted it at the Texas Education Agency and Arlington ISD.

The tweet was intended as an innocuous protest against unnecessary standardized testing. He and any other Texas students who entered ninth grade before the 2011-12 school year are still evaluated on the TAKS test. They're still required to take the STAAR, but mainly so the state can get data they can use to tweak the test before it really matters. As Kyron points out in his exceptionally brief essay, the test doesn't benefit him.

Arlington ISD didn't think the protest innocuous. Citing a breach of test security, school officials promptly alerted the TEA, pulled Kyron out of class, called his mom, and gave him a four-day, on-campus suspension. This, the district explained in a statement to WFAA, is in keeping with established disciplinary policy.

The district was no doubt trying to discourage other students from tweeting pictures of the STAAR test, but the rather harsh punishment has transformed Kyron from irreverent high school kid to prisoner of conscience. Just check out the #FreeKyron hashtag on Twitter.

Kyron himself is unapologetically basking in the attention.

Maybe not Selma or Stonewall, but we'll say this: The kid's got moxie.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson