Monday, July 2, 2007

CT Homeschoolers On The March

Deborah Stevenson of NHELD (Top)
Families Picket the Dept. Of Education (Bottom)

On June 28th, CT homeschoolers came to the state Capitol in Hartford, to let their voices be heard in protest against the practices of school administrators who have been reporting families to DCF after they have withdrawn their children from school in order to homeschool them. Homeschoolers packed the hearing room (and caused an additional overflow room to be opened) where Susan Hamilton was in nomination hearings for her new position as DCF commissioner. Their stories as testimony, and their presence, was a reason why Ms. Hamilton vowed to adopt policy changes recommended by NHELD as well as to attend to this issue of being used by the Dept. of Education as an "attack dog".

I plan to keep you informed of when and how those policy changes will be implemented as promised. You can view the hearing on CT-N video provided here (for Windows Media Player) or you can go to the CT-N website and link to it from there. Please note that most of the homeschool testimony occurs at the last 45 minutes of the hearing which was 3 and a half hours long.

The AP story
about Hamilton's nomination made reference to NHELD.
Hamilton has already ruffled some feathers. A contingent of parents who home-school their children urged the committee to oppose Hamilton's confirmation, claiming she dropped the ball on their complaints about school superintendents and principals reporting their home-schooled children to DCF as being truant.

Those reports, they said, have led to baseless investigations that have caused havoc for home-schooling families.

“They need leadership within our government,” said Deborah G. Stevenson, executive director of the National Home Education Legal Defense Fund in Southington. “They need people not afraid to stand up and act when wrongdoing has been brought to their attention. ... I fear that Ms. Hamilton will not bring us that leadership.”

Hamilton said she understands the families' concerns and is willing to work with them.

“If changes are needed in how we handle these cases, I will implement those changes,” she told lawmakers
After attending the hearing, homeschoolers continued on to deliver a letter to Governor Rell's office, respectfully asking her to direct her DCF Commissioner and her Dept. of Education Commissioner to change their policies and end the abuse that families have been experiencing.

After delivering the letter, homeschoolers proceeded across the street to picket in front of the Department of Education, shouting demands to end the abuse and cease the false claims and referrals to DCF of truancy and educational neglect.

We already have the word on record of the new DCF commissioner that some changes will be made. Time will tell if the Governor and the Commissioner of Education will act to make meaningful policy changes. We will be following up with them and I plan to keep you posted.

28 families, this year alone, have now been reported to DCF after withdrawing their children from public school for various reasons. Some families are trying to escape bullying, others have children who are ill and cannot attend a traditional school and others just feel that the schools have failed them and other options need to be explored for their children. It is obvious that schools are trying to keep children from leaving at all costs, even if it means reporting them fraudulently to DCF.

All I know is that homeschoolers in CT will no longer tolerate this treatment, and many, many legislators agree with us.