Sunday, January 21, 2007

Some Good News For CT Parents Who Want To Homeschool Their Kids

CT State Representative Arthur O'Neill has recently introduced a proposed bill which strengthens parental rights in CT. The bill HB5883 - AN ACT CONCERNING WITHDRAWAL FROM SCHOOL, makes sure that schools cannot continue the recent practice of keeping children on their enrollment lists after they have received a letter of withdrawal from parents/guardians.

What this bill seeks to fix is the fact that in the past few years there have been numerous instances like this: when parents have sent a letter of withdrawal to their school administrators the schools have kept the children on enrollment lists and then declared the child truant and subject to Department of Children and Family (DCF) report and investigation for educational neglect, when the child didn't attend school. Threatening letters are sent to the parents. Schools begin legal action regarding claims of truancy and educational neglect. Sometimes DCF shows up at the family's doorstep. Parents have been brought to court over this issue by the school system, and their children have been threatened with removal from the home. So far after much cost and grief, the cases are dismissed or the charges by the school administration are dropped. Some cases in CT are still under investigation. The threats to parents who wish to dis-enroll their children remain.

It is a shameful abuse of authority, and parents are being forced to sign documents that they do not wish to sign and they are not obligated to sign. What these school systems are practicing is coercion, harassment, and filing false police reports, all of which are serious crimes in CT. In fact, coercion is a violation of a criminal statute which subjects violators to time in jail and a fine. Parents may have to begin initiation of legal action if the problems persist.

In the past, parents never had problems withdrawing their children from school, and sometimes all it took was a phone call or a verbal exchange telling the administrator that their child would not be returning to school. The school would remove the child from the enrollment list and that was that. Now, the State Board of Education, and administrators in some school districts, apparently are taking the stance that the child is not dis-enrolled unless and until the school gives it's approval! So now we see that legislation must be spelled out to protect parental rights in CT.

Actually, school boards across the country have been attempting to make withdrawal from school "conditional". That is, that you may not withdraw you child from public school unless certain conditions are met. We are starting to see a pattern emerge. Imagine that you cannot dis-enroll your child from school unless you or your child get mental health tests, or if you adhere to certain set standards, or must use certain curriculum, or that home visits are required. It's a control issue for sure.

With regard to the problems which have come up with this in CT, I, along with others, have personally met with the former Education Commissioner (Betty Sternberg), the Governors office, and DCF about this issue and everyone agrees that this is a problem that should be addressed, and it hasn't. So now we need a legislative remedy. You may want to check your state's laws regarding withdrawal, if there are any. Our kids must not be kept as hostages in the public school system, and parents must not be coerced into doing things that they don't want to do in order to remove their child from government schools.

The proposed language is as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That subsection (a) of section 10-220 of the general statutes be amended to provide when a parent or guardian of a child provides by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the principal of the school that the child attends or to the superintendent of the local or regional board of education, written notice originated by and signed by the parent or guardian of a child stating that the parent or guardian is withdrawing the child from enrollment in a public school and will provide instruction for the child as required pursuant to section 10-184 of the general statutes, the principal of the school that the child attends or the local or regional board of education shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from enrollment in the public school immediately upon receipt of such notice.
Kudos to Representative O'Neill for proposing this legislation. My fervent hope is that all CT parents as well as CT homeschoolers will contact their CT state legislators and ask them to support this legislation. The bill has gone to the Education Committee for consideration. Co-Chairman of the Education Committee is House Representative Andrew Fleischmann, my former opponent in the last election. He is my representative and has blocked the passage of this legislation the last two times it appeared as an amendment to other bills. He claims he is a friend of homeschooling, and in the past has praised homeschooling parents for their dedication... we'll see if he will support this bill this time, which would protect parental rights and allow parents to withdraw their children from school without the threat of having their children taken away from them.

When a date is set for a public hearing I will post it here.