Commissioner Hamilton of DCF, has promised to implement policy changes, that NHELD had recommended, in order to avoid costly and time consuming investigations brought on by false complaints of truancy and neglect by school administrators on CT families who have decided to withdraw their children from public school in order to homeschool them. Parents have pulled their children out of school for various reasons ranging from medical reasons, to escaping the extreme bullying of their child in school. Schools are making it difficult for parents to withdraw their child in order to homeschool them and threaten them with DCF referrals. One CT legislator wrote this to a constituent:
"Since the press conference aired on CT-N , I have received a few calls from parents who have had horrendous experiences when trying to remove their children from the public schools. One parent actually broke down and cried halfway through the message he left on my answering machine. His son committed suicide after being subjected to constant bullying at school. He had tried to remove him from school , but was unable to deal with the opposition."If that isn't tragic I don't know what is. And it was completely avoidable.
With that in mind:
Now we wait to see if the Department of Education will make the necessary changes to it's guidelines regarding homeschooling, to remove conflicting language that is causing this whole problem to begin with. We have met with them in the past and they know this exists. They have let it continue. We have internal documents showing how they have been purposely encouraging superintendents to report homeschoolers to DCF for educational neglect simply for not following voluntary guidelines.
Revisions must be made to the DOE's “Suggested Procedure for Home Instruction”, to conform to existing statutory law:
- by eliminating any misleading statement contained in the procedure such as parents “must file” a Notice of Intent form (the guidelines are voluntary.. so there is no must), and
- by eliminating any misleading statement that children “may be considered truant” if parents do not follow the “Suggested Procedure for Home Instruction” (according to state statute Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-198a homeschoolers can not be deemed truant. This statute specifies that children who are not enrolled in a public or private school but who are being instructed by their parents in accordance with Conn. Gen. Statute §10-184 shall not be considered truant.)
It should be known too, that we have also seen homeschool families who have followed those voluntary guidelines be referred to DCF by their local school administrators anyway. We have also seen local schools keep children on their enrollment lists even after a parent submits a letter of withdrawal to the school. One child received a failing report card, and the child had already been withdrawn long before then!
It is of course illegal to knowingly file a false complaint to DCF, and the DOE should be communicating that to their school superintendents.
Perhaps the Governor's office needs to give the Commissioner of Education a call or write him a letter - directing him to fix this problem and end the false reporting of families to DCF by school administrators.
We believe that if false reports to DCF do not cease being made by schools, on homeschooling families who have withdrawn from school - then lawsuits may follow with the charges of falsely reporting a claim to DCF. There are also statutes regarding coersion and harassment which are also relevant in these cases.
CT School administrators better listen up:
1) Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §17a-101e(c), any person who knowingly makes a false report of child abuse or neglect is subject to fines and imprisonment;
2) Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §53a-180c, a person is guilty of falsely reporting an incident in the second degree when, knowing the information reported to be false or baseless, such person reports it to a law enforcement officer or agency;
3) Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §53-153, any person who willfully alters or destroys documents in the possession or under the control of any institution, board, or department of the state or municipality is subject to imprisonment.
Parents have a legal right to withdraw their children from enrollment and when they do, the school districts must immediately remove the children from enrollment;
When parents withdraw their children from school to homeschool, those children who are homeschooled are not truant;
When parents withdraw their children from school, such withdrawal shall not be grounds to report the child as truant, or the family as neglectful, to DCF or to the Superior Court;
The CT DOE should immediately rescind any previous recommendation and communications encouraging local public school districts to report families to DCF for truancy or neglect when parents choose to withdraw their children from school.