Won't Back Down Movie Poster

Won't Back Down

User rating: 3.91 121 Reviews | Write a Review

In Theaters: September 28, 2012

PG | Drama | 2h 1m

Parent Trigger Law

Parent Trigger Law

Won't Back Down is the latest in the trend of education-reforming films begun by Waiting for 'Superman' back in 2010.

While the documentary film Waiting for 'Superman' shone a light on the concept of charter schools, Won't Back Down—starring Academy Award-nominated Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter—is a movie based on the concept of parent trigger laws. California was the first state to pass the parent trigger law allowing concerned mothers and fathers to take control of their kids' school. They can fire the principal, fire the teachers, close the school or turn it into a charter school—as long as they can gather a majority.

In Won't Back Down, Davis and Gyllenhaal play a teacher and a mother, respectively, that team up and risk everything to use the parent trigger law to reform their school. While the film presents an ideal scenario, in real life the law has been much less successful.

The first attempt to use the law was done by parents at McKinley Elementary School in Compton, California. While nearly 61 per cent of the parents signed the petition, it did not go unchallenged. After a strong focus by the media and vocal proponents both for and against the change, a judge determined that signatures were not dated, leading to the possibility that the petition could be invalid.

A little over 80 miles away, the law was tested again when the parents of Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, California, organized and collected enough signatures to trigger the change. After the petition was presented, several of the originally on-board parents rescinded their support, leading to the rejection by the school board.

Parent Revolution, an organization that was set up to support parents wishing to go through with parent trigger laws, has accused those who were against the petition of doctoring the rescission documents, citing at least three instances in which parents had not checked off boxes that had appeared marked in the final version of the documents. In Won't Back Down, Holly Hunter plays a union rep that goes through with questionable decisions fighting the parent trigger law petition, motivated by admiration for the teachers she represents. In fact, the increased participation of teachers in the film may be the point where there is the biggest departure from reality.

While the laws in place only require the organization of parents, the film establishes that parents and teachers must be in accordance for the petition to go through. It could be a case of life imitating art, as many teachers' unions have been quoted as saying they would be more agreeable with the law if it took into account their participation as well.