Thursday, May 31, 2007

Homeschoolers Under Attack By Department Of Children And Families (DCF) In CT

This article by Jennifer Abel of the Hartford Advocate demonstrates the abuse of authority and downright persecution of homeschoolers and those wishing to remove their children from government schools in CT.

You must read this article. You would not believe how these families are being abused - as if having sick child is not enough to deal with. Approximately 25 families are now facing this type of harassment and heavy handed coercion in CT.

Parents who have had it with the school system and then attempt to withdraw their children - even after filing Notice of Intent forms or writing a letter to withdraw their children from school, are being reported to DCF on trumped up charges of educational neglect as well as other claims in order to prevent them from homeschooling.

To date, about 25 families who have attempted to disenroll their children from public school in order to homeschool them, are now being investigated by DCF. Even if they signed a Notices of Intent, or have written certified letters of withdrawal to the school, it doesn’t matter. The new accepted practice is that a child is not removed from school unless the school says so. 5 families have been substantiated, which means that DCF has found reason to find them educationally neglectful or have made other claims against them. Many are being coerced into giving access to medical records or getting mental screenings, under threat of losing their children. Some families are now afraid to remove their children from school. This is quite disturbing news.

The problems have steadily been getting worse since legislation that would prevent this type of thing has been blocked by legislators like Education Co-Chair Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a Progressive Democrat. Fleischmann has long been a foe of homeschooling families in CT despite his claims of "wanting to help end this problem" when we go speak with him on the issue. As co-chair of the Education Committee he has blocked every attempt to stop these abuses, no doubt working in conjunction with the State Department of Education.

Representative Arthur O'Neill has been an incredible legislator on the side of homeschoolers, and has introduced legislation that would end this abuse. He has garnered much support for us in the chambers, but his bill this year never made it out of committee thanks to Rep. Fleischmann.

Deborah Stevenson has been to the Governor's Office, spoken to DCF officials, spoken to the Lt. Governor's office, the Attorney General's Office, the Commissioner of Education, Legislative leaders, and others in government ... to no avail. They all say the same thing... this is terrible.. this should not happen... we want to help you... And then they do nothing. She has written letters, she has been to hearings, and the governmental abuse continues. She has even been to the police to have school officials arrested for making false complaints, but the police refuse to arrest school officials. Now she's gone to the press.

The opponents of homeschooling in CT, specifically those in the education cartel, have not been able to make restrictive laws regarding homeschooling - so now they are doing everything they can to prevent children from leaving the system.

These actions by the school administrators and DCF are despicable. The schools are using DCF, and their power to remove children from the home or gain custody of children, as a nuclear weapon to prevent parents from withdrawing their child from school.

A few thoughts about how schools are holding children and families hostage.....

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to give them permission to talk to your child’s physician, or be reported to DCF.

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to agree to their special education plan, or be reported to DCF.

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to get approval of your curriculum, or you’ll be reported to DCF.

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to sign the Notice of Intent, or be reported to DCF. The NOI is not statutorily required. parents are being coerced into signing documents that they are not required by law to sign.

If you do manage to withdraw from school, two years later, you’ll have to sign a Notice of Intent or “register” with the school, or be reported to DCF.

If you do get out, and then you re-enroll in a public school, you’ll find that the school never took the child off the “enrollment books” and gave the child failing grades on his report card for the time he was out! The schools are keeping withdrawn children on their enrollment lists!! and then charging them with truancy!

If you do get out and you sign a Notice of Intent, you’ll have to attend a portfolio review or be reported to DCF. Again attending a review is NOT REQUIRED by law!

Is this the policy adopted by the State Board of Education in 1990? Is this what parents agreed to in 1990? No it isn't.


Those instances happened to real parents just in the past month alone. 25 families are now being threatened with removal of their children for bogus charges of truancy or educational neglect..DCF has substantiated a handful, when these families have done nothing wrong.

The Governor knows this - DCF knows this, the Attorney General knows this, the Education Commissioner knows this, Legislators know this, and no one wants to stop the harassment of parents,even though they have all said to us - this is terrible and should be stopped.

All parents must support the ability to withdraw your children from school without any conditions, threats or reporting of parents to DCF - and government officials say that they also support that ability yet they refuse to act to protect parents from the harassment and the coercion that they are experiencing.

No parent or child is immune from the arbitrary abuses of the school system, especially not when administrators are being encouraged to report families to DCF by the CT State Department of Education. (A charge they will deny).

Parents are ready to sue the state for harassment and coercion... as this has got to stop.

Homeschoolers in CT need to get in touch with Deborah Stevenson and perhaps we need to all show up at DCF offices in Hartford, as 1500 of us did in 2002 to protest restrictive proposed legislation. Perhaps it is time for every homeschooler in CT to express their outrage to their legislators in the CT State Senate and CT State House.

Contact Deborah Stevenson for more information at "info at nheld dot com".

UPDATE: Another homeschooling family was just "substantiated" today; one of the families mentioned in the article.

The Thinking Mother has also blogged about this
issue as well.

5 comments:

christinemm said...

Judy thank you for blogging about this. I know it has been something you have been thinking about and spending time on for quite some time. I've been talking this issue up with local homeschoolers. I also have met some families who were reported to DCF immediately after trying to disenroll their children from public school in order to homeschool them (for various reasons but all were basically problems at school including one severe bullying case (in 2nd and 3rd grade, going on for over a year) and another was a sexual assault of a ten year old).

I am happy you blogged this now I can link to it and blog about what I know as well. I didn't want to be the first one to let the cat out of the bag.

I am happy that the media is reporting on this story.

I would love to go to Hartford with 1000 or more people as we did in 2002.

Jennifer said...

(for various reasons but all were basically problems at school including one severe bullying case (in 2nd and 3rd grade, going on for over a year) and another was a sexual assault of a ten year old).

Jennifer Abel here. Thanks for the link, Judy.

My editor said I can do some more stories on this issue in the future, so if you (Christine) or any other people would like to contact me for a story please do so at jabel@hartfordadvocate.com

There was a lot of information I had to keep out of this story, for space reasons, but I hope to use it in the future. Since I've already done one piece about the harassment of parents whose kids have medical problems, I'd like to do stories on parents who took the kids out for other reasons, such as bullying or simply wanting to give a better education than the public schools can offer.

The only catches are: these would have to be cases in Connecticut, and I'd have to be able to use at least the parent's real name (though in severe cases like that of sexual assault I may be able to offer parental anonymity to protect the child; I'd have to talk to my editor about that).

I sincerely hope this helps convince those with the power to solve the problem to do so.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Hi, Judy,

Thanks for the heads up.

How can those of us in other states help?

Keep up the fight.

Judy Aron said...

Elisheva...The only thing I can say is to make sure this is not happening in your own state. Government abuse of authority happens even when we think the laws "protect us". The thing is that "conditional withdrawal" from government school is on the horizon. Be vigilant. Know the laws and stand by your rights.

In CT's case...we need to help Deborah Stevenson financially and give her all the support that we can. If you want to know how to contact her, just email me at "imjfaron at sbcglobal dot net"

We will be mounting a protest or two for sure (anyone from CT want to help organize them?)

Sherry said...

Thanks for letting us know about this. It just underscores that all of us must be ever vigilant to protect homeschoolers' rights.