Thursday, June 28, 2007

CT Parents And Homeschoolers Protest At The Capitol In Hartford Today - June 28

PRESS RELEASE - For immediate release


Connecticut parents from across the state are outraged that children and families continue to be harassed and coerced by schools who knowingly file false claims against parents who have withdrawn, or attempt to withdraw their children from public schools in order to homeschool them.

More than 25 families have already been threatened this year alone. Schools, with the apparent blessing by the State Department of Education (SDOE), are using the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to threaten parents, causing fear and trauma to families, as well as costly financial consequences. Schools are filing false complaints knowingly, and DCF spends time and money to investigate, ending up with unsubstantiated claims. DCF refuses to prosecute schools filing false complaints, and they refuse to change intake policies that involve obtaining some proof of a claim before investigating a family. Parents are seeking justice, and want the law to be upheld.

In the past, Deborah Stevenson, Executive Director of NHELD, 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, except for some legislators who have done what they can to help. NHELD has written letters, have been to hearings, and the governmental abuse of authority continues. NHELD has even been to the police to have school officials arrested for making false complaints, but the police refuse to arrest school officials.

Two weeks ago, on 06/11/07, NHELD met with the Governor’s office and DCF commissioner-appointee, Susan Hamilton, to discuss the harassment and abuse of parents across CT. NHELD submitted a list of recommended policy changes to DCF, The Governor and the State Department of Education, which NHELD felt would put an end to the problems that have produced school referrals of over 25 families which were, or currently are being, investigated by DCF. One of those proposed changes was to eliminate the terms “must” and references to “truancy” in the C-14 guidelines (the suggested procedures for home instruction) that have been the cause of unjust referrals to DCF. Other changes were suggested for the DCF policy manual with regard to their intake of referrals regarding truancy and educational neglect. The DCF commissioner-appointee as well as the Governor’s office promised to get back to NHELD leaders by June 25th. They have not honored their promise and they have been silent. NHELD had hoped that some meaningful changes would be instituted to prevent further false claims to be filed by schools against homeschoolers, or accepted by DCF. The silence of DCF and the Governor’s office represents to NHELD, and CT parents, further stonewalling and unwillingness to fix this problem.

Among other things, parents want to know why the Governor has taken absolutely no action to end this abuse by her agencies since she was first informed about the problem in 2004. Other then calling a meeting on 6/11/07, she has been silent on the issue. She has not even written anything directing her agencies to fix the problem. We are asking her to take that action now.

Parents also want to know why the state Education Department legal staff continues to tell public school districts that “only the public school districts have the authority to determine when a child is no longer enrolled in a public school.” Parents have always been able to withdraw their children unconditionally from public school, but now the SDOE is saying something quite different. This is an assault on parental rights.

Parents are demanding that the State Department of Education tell their school districts to stop filing false complaints to DCF and to stop using DCF as a means to coerce and threaten parents who have decided to withdraw their children to homeschool them. Parents want school administrators who knowingly make those false complaints, to DCF, to be prosecuted as is prescribed by law.

Parents want to know why the Governor has taken no action to direct the state Education Department to have the language in the “Suggested Procedure for Home Instruction”, otherwise known as the C-14 Guidelines, accurately reflect existing state law. (Even though they are only a suggested procedure, the Guidelines state that parents “must” file a Notice of Intent and attend a portfolio review, even though no state statute requires any such thing,) or the children “may be considered truant”, (even though truancy does not apply to children who are no longer enrolled in a public or private school). All we are asking is for the Governor to direct her Education Commissioner to make the C-14 Guidelines accurately reflect existing law, since the SDOE has refused to that on their own.

NHELD hopes that this protest will send a strong message that we no longer will tolerate parents being falsely reported to DCF for whatever fabricated charges school administrators wish to make. NHELD is only asking that our current CT laws be upheld by the Governor and her state agencies.

NHELD has spoken to these agencies several times over the past years, to no avail. Parents will not wait any longer for state agencies to change their policies that currently condone and allow parents to be threatened and coerced by school administrators who knowingly file false complaints to DCF for truancy and educational neglect and who ignore parental written notification of withdrawal from public school.

The message from this protest is very simple and very clear. Parents want the current laws to be upheld, and they want state agency policies to reflect what the law says. They want an action plan by these agencies to fix this problem NOW.