Published: 1:00 pm, Tue. May. 10th, 2016Updated: 2:33 pm
The New Mexico Public Education Department said Monday that it will remove a rule that prohibits state teachers from making disparaging remarks about standardized tests.
Robert McEntryre, a spokesman for the department, confirmed that officials are working on getting rid of the Gov. Bill Richardson-era regulation and that the department has never used it against any teacher.
“This was a Richardson-era rule put into the books, and we never enforced it. We reviewed it just as we said we would, and we’ve decided to roll it back,” McEntryre said.
The move comes after the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a lawsuit in March challenging a regulation that prohibits teachers and other public school employees from criticizing standardized tests. The lawsuit was filed in Santa Fe District Court on behalf of five public school teachers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, along with a parent of an Albuquerque student.
The ACLU said the provision against making disparaging statements could result in a license suspension or evocation for teachers and other educators. ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Maria Martinez Sanchez says the group is pleased the department is ending this “unconstitutional gag rule.”
“We should be listening to the teachers’ expertise on these issues, not trying to stifle their free speech by threatening their jobs,” Sanchez said.
The Public Education Department said the regulation dates back to 2009. It was designed to ensure that students are encouraged to do their best on performance exams.
No one has been disciplined under the provision during the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez, the department said. The agency had said the ACLU’s lawsuit was designed to push an “extreme agenda” against all student testing. State officials will ask the court for a stay while it goes through the necessary steps to remove the gag rule from the books.