Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Victory For A CT Homeschooler And Uncertainty For Another

Chris Canfield - one of the moms who spoke in the Homeschoolers Press Conference about Department of Education and DCF abuses shared this information with us:
"The state withdrew it's case, with prejudice, against us on Tuesday. They (DCF) can never come after us again with the same accusations."
That is VERY good news!

Now if we can only get them to back off of Isabelle Hall-Gustafsen and her family. Like this poor woman doesn't have enough to deal with while her husband is serving our country in Iraq! Nice that we have a state agency harassing her, and threatening removal of her child, while her husband is deployed. DCF "substantiated" her case. Now she is waiting to see what happens next, and she still does not know the charges against her or what evidence the State has in their file. The State's actions are utterly shameful.


Lisa Giebitz said...

That's very odd that a military family is being harassed, since there are no military regulations against homeschooling. Maybe it only matters when you live on post? I'm not sure.

I will admit I've heard stories of military personnel (the ones in charge or under those in charge of overseeing the schools on a post) overstepping their bounds in some cases, but by and far it seems to get cleared up pretty quick.

Valerie said...

Military regulations do not directly affect family members, although family members are 'administratively' affected by their presence on an installation, or the use of facilities (mind your manners or lose your access). The only people under direct military jurisdiction via the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), are servicemembers.

Family members -- spouses and children -- are civilians.

Living on post usually has little bearing on whether a family is investigated for child abuse (since this is the allegation against Ms. Hall-Gustafsen) although the services do have "family advocacy" regulations -- which have a bearing on the servicemember. There are probably some installations where the title to the land allows federal jurisdiction, but education is a state concern unless federal funds are involved.

The Military Commander and the Law
Jurisdiction on military installations
(ca. 3 minute download on broadband -- don't click if you're on dial-up, unless of course you need to go mow the lawn or something ;> )
page 106
− The concept of jurisdiction is separate and distinct from that of title

− Jurisdiction includes the right to legislate (i.e., implement laws, rules and regulations) and to enforce those laws. Having title does not necessarily include legislative jurisdiction.

For a greater understanding, read pages 106 - 110.

This is why it is local authorities who are doing whatever it is they're doing to Isabelle Hall-Gustafsen. She is a civilian living in an American state, therefore the laws of the state apply to her. Of course, harassment without basis in law isn't justification for the harassment, and it's damned insensitive to add to the stress of a deployed servicemember's family, and the servicemember.

Because, in the absence of martial law, the services have no jurisdiction over a civilian spouse, any actions for criminal behavior must be taken by a civil authority. (yes, I read the parts about how these actions against homeschoolers aren't being logged under "criminal" proceedings, but one thing at a time in the explanation) Overseas it gets a bit more fiddly, but you will not find often civilian spouses in military confinement facilities unless it is temporary restraint for safety reasons, or detention until a civilian-in-authority takes custody. Civilians can also be detained, escorted off the installation, and denied re-entry.

As for military commanders having educational oversight, that is -- as far as I can tell -- a fallacy. The DoD Education Activity (DoDEA) is subordinate to the Department of Defense, but military commanders are not part of that Activity's chain of command. Also, DoDEA officials are granted authority only over the Activity's personnel, and educationally over children who are enrolled with the system. The Activity does not have educational jurisdiction over all military children.
It is DoDEA policy neither to encourage nor discourage DoD sponsors from home
schooling their minor dependents. DoDEA recognizes that home schooling is a sponsor’s
right and can be a legitimate alternative form of education for the sponsor’s dependents.

Local military commanders must supply logistical support (building maintenance, utilities and so on) to the schools, and the school personnel must mind their Ps and Qs while on the installation, but the schools are educationally autonomous under DoDEA's auspices. The UCMJ has nothing to do with DoDEA.
The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is a Department of Defense field activity operating under the direction, authority and control of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.

The problem for homeschoolers is a lack of understanding of the relationship of the commander to homeschooling. Many people seem to view homeschooling as an offense-in-the-making, or a regulated activity on an installation, and assume it requires oversight via the commander's "inherent authority" to maintain order. The catch is -- as with anyone on an installation -- until the homeschoolers (ordinary people for all intents other than educational) are disorderly, there is no reason for command interest. Using the "inherent authority" model to oversee homeschooling to prevent educational neglect is as reasonable as using inherent authority for a commander to oversee family meals in the interest of preventing children from being malnourished. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, parents are assumed to be reasonably competent.

My philosophy (not my legal advice) boils down to:

-- If a family chooses public schooling, the commander can have no opinion or authority.
-- If a family chooses private schooling, the commander can have no opinion or authority.
-- Therefore, if a family chooses homeschooling, the commander can have no opinion or authority.

Mandi said...

Please keep us updated on the second case as you can- thanks!

Susan said...

Glad to hear about the Canfield family! Shameful that it was ever pursued.
We had friends/neighbors next door to us (off post) who were still in the military. I assumed that if the family was living off post, if they chose to use the public schools, they were under the public school mandates w/i the school district they attended. I'll need to read Valerie's info.

Good thoughts and wishes for Isabelle Hall-Gustafsen and her family.

Dy said...

Oh, I am glad for the Canfields. And I do hope there will be some closure soon for the Gustafson family, as well. Shameful is an accurate description.