Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Urgent Connecticut Homeschooling Legal Update 3/19/08

If you are a Connecticut homeschooler you should read this.

NHELD has new bulletins in the Connecticut Clearinghouse section of their site. Note there are two bulletins dated 3/18/08 which were posted after the 3/18/08 Education Committee meeting. There is one update dated 3/19/08.

NHELD's Connecticut Clearinghouse site

The NHELD bulletins state that Senator Gaffey (Democrat) and Senator Fleischmann (Democrat) have altered the original language of SB162 (authored by Rep. O'Neill). The original SB162 language attempted to edit the 10-220 law. The new version amends also 10-184 The Duties of Parents law and 10-220 also.

The original language in SB162 as written by Rep. O'Neill was simple. It stated that parents have a right to make the decision to disenroll their child from public school if they want. If a parent were to file certain papers and send them by certified mail then the school would have to accept that decision and allow the student to disenroll. The student could then be homeschooled or enrolled into a private school, whatever the parent had decided to do. At the SB162 public hearing on 2/19/08 we did hear testimony from one non-homeschooling mother who was hassled after disenrolling her child from public school and enrolling her child into a private school.

The revised language that was raised and approved by the Education Committee on 3/18/08 is different. In a nutshell after the parent states they want to disenroll (by filing certain papers by certified mail), if they are to homeschool, the school staff gets to make the decision of whether to allow the disenrollment or not. There is a new item added to SB162 that says that school staff to review the homeschooling plan and to decide if 'equivalent instruction' will be done. The school then can decide whether to allow the child to be homeschooled or whether to compel the child to continue to attend public school. This would be the first time in Connecticut's history that public schools have the power to determine "equivalent instruction" and to decide if the child can homeschool or not.

(The term 'school' could mean a Board of Education or some employee of the school system. I am just using the term 'school' to simplify the language in this blog post. Read the full SB162 for details of who would do what.)

Note that if the school does not disenroll the student from their student roster and the children is in fact, actively homeschooling, the school can mark them absent from school, and then after a certain time period they are considered in legal terms to be 'truant'. If the child is deemed 'truant' the school can then make a report to DCF that the child is being 'educationally neglected'. DCF then can open a case and determine, as the worst course of action, if the child should be removed from the parents and placed into foster care.

According to NHELD, in the last two years, over 40 Connecticut families have been reported to DCF or have been threatened to be reported to DCF unless the child returns to school (instead of being homeschooled). You can read more about that in this NHELD bulletin.

Now that SB162 is going to the Senate, it can be amended and discussed further. If you are against these new changes now is the time to contact your Senator to explain exactly why the new language should be rejected. If the bill is not voted upon by the Senate it will die in committee and will be 'killed'. So we are faced with changing the language to something we prefer and then voting on that or if we cannot get the language changed to something we like, letting it be killed.

It is my understanding that 10-184 was written in the year 1650. This statute is very good and makes homeschooling very easy and has no government oversight of homeschooling, compared to the way homeschooling is regulated in other states.

Connecticut's Department of Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan was hired after working in the Department of Education in Massachusetts where he worked to put new, stronger government oversight onto Massachusetts homeschoolers. We have to work hard to see that he does not make the same changes here in Connecticut. Things that he has said in interviews last year made it clear that he desires more regulation and oversight of Connecticut homeschoolers. I wonder if Commissioner McQuillan is influencing Senator Gaffey and Senator Fleischmann to give more power to the public schools to prevent some families from leaving public schools and starting to homeschool?

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