Backdoor Dealings: A proposed bill that would get DCF off the back of homeschooling parents is caught in a political war between competing lawmakers, 2 April 2008, Hartford Advocate, Hartford, Connecticut
There’s a bait-and-switch scam going on in the General Assembly where the homeschooling bill 162 is concerned.
Originally proposed by Rep. Arthur O’Neill, it’s supposed to clarify a legal hitch causing problems for Connecticut parents who homeschool.
Here’s the deal: when parents withdraw their children from school to teach them at home, the schools have been calling the Department of Children and Families and reporting the parents for “educational neglect.”
Deborah Stevenson, an attorney who heads NHELD (National Home Education Legal Defense), finds this unacceptable. “It’s not enough to accept the letter, you must consider the child withdrawn,” she argues. “Evidence is not proof.”
Besides, acceptance of the letters isn’t really the problem: “School districts were accepting them, but not considering the children withdrawn, then calling DCF and charging them with educational neglect.”
Ridgefield homeschoolers tell of trials, 30 March 2008, Ridgefield Press, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Attorney Deborah Stevenson, an education lawyer in Southbury and the executive director of National Home Education Legal Defense, told the legislature that public schools around the state had been reporting families to the Department of Children and Family after the withdrawal of children from the public schools for homeschooling.
â€œThe bill … is needed because of the improper, coercive, and abusive actions of school officials who falsely reported, or threatened to report, more than 40 families to the Department of Children and Families in this past year alone, simply because they exercised their right to refuse unlawful demands of public school officials, and withdrew their children from the public school system…
The bill would compel school districts to unconditionally acknowledge and respect the right of parents when they exercise their right to withdraw their children from a public school, she wrote.
A lawyer with the State Department of Education offered a different perspective on the controversy.
We’ve got a number of different statutes that relate to home instruction, said Attorney Laura Anastacio. But essentially what we have are dual obligations. Parents have certain statutory obligations and school districts have certain statutory obligations.
Local boards of education are required to make certain that children who reside within their school districts are attending public school, or they have to contact the parent and make sure that the child is receiving equivalent instruction elsewhere.
School personnel are also â€œmandatory reporters under state child protection statues: They are required to report suspected cases of abuse not just beatings, but all kinds, including the â€œeducational abuseâ€ of not providing a child with adequate schooling.
They have to report cases of possible educational neglect, if a child isn’t being educated. Ms. Anastasio said.
A problem with what the lawyer for the State Department of Education says is that the schools are equating home education with educational neglect.Â There is no indication in thisÂ report that the schools have any reason to suspect neglect except that the parents have withdrawn the children.Â Sounds as if bullying has left the playground and is now in the schools’ offices.
Links to reports about the current state of affairs in Connecticut are at NHELD’s Connecticut page.