Texas STARR Exam: Why Did Texas Suspend a Student For Writing 'YOLO' On An Exam?

In Texas, high school students must take the official State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STARR) exam in order to measure the student's knowledge of curriculum standards. Students take 12 assessments at the end of the year covering topics such as Algebra 1, geometry, biology, and history. They must take these exams in addition to the TAKS test.

Kyron Birdine, a junior at Arlington High School in Texas, wrote YOLO, an acronym for "you only live once" on his STARR exam. Birdine then tweeted the photo making sure to tag official twitter accounts for both the school district and the board of education.

Birdine also wrote, “I have the TAKS test to study for, not this unneeded craziness”.

According to the Arlington Independent School District, Birdine was punished accordingly with district disciplinary procedures for distributing a photo of an answer booklet for a STARR field test.

Standardized testing has been criticized by parents and teachers alike. The STARR exams are only used to determine how well the student understands curriculum standards. Students must also take the TAKS, which is the test most students are worried about, because it will determine whether or not the student can pass onto the next grade. Was Birdine protesting the STARR exams?

Birdine was suspended for four days but has not regretted his decision to protest the STARR test. On his Twitter account he responded, that "I just did what every junior wanted to do."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is taking action in support of Birdine. They are stating that although Birdine had no right to take a photo of state property; the school district must use more constructive ways of punishment rather than keep him away from school for a week. ACLU believes expulsion and suspension contributes to the school to prison pipeline in Texas because it makes the student much more likely to drop out of school and become part of the criminal justice system.

According to the ACLU, Birdine makes good grades and plans to go to college. While he did what most people wish they could do, school suspension certainly isn’t a good punishment. His protest was creative and perhaps a result of a system that does not listen to students' or parents' opinions.

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Maribel Hermosillo

Maribel Hermosillo is a contributor for PolicyMic's Identities column covering racial justice and feminism. Maribel has written for Rh Reality Check, Strong Families, The San Antonio Current, Yes Ma’am, Brown Queen and The Arts United of San Antonio. Maribel graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a focus on American Studies and Mexican-American Studies. Maribel's experience as a first generation queer woman of color deeply informs her writing and poetry. Maribel likes to take long reflective walks on mountains, hills and wooded areas. She resides in San Antonio, Texas.

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