Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CT DCF Makes Some Policy Changes To Address School's Abuse Of Authority - But Are They Enough?

Many of you following my blogposts have come to know the problem of CT public school administrators (and the State Department of Education encouraging them) falsely reporting to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) families who have withdrawn their children from school in order to homeschool them. National Home Education Legal Defense Executive Director, Deborah Stevenson, has been working with DCF to clarify and amend DCF policies
1) to make them match more closely with what CT State Statutes say and
2) to prevent waste of time and money on DCF investigations caused by school administrators who knowingly falsely accuse homeschool families of educational neglect and truancy (etc.), in order to punish or harass them for not signing documents that are not required by state statute, or in order to force them into complying with other demands made by the school.

Public school administrators have been abusing their authority and using DCF as an "attack dog", threatening parents unless the school's demands are met. This is a serious problem which has affected well over 30 families in CT this year alone! It has cost the CT taxpayer incredible amounts of money wasted on court costs, unnecessary investigations and agency resources taken away from actual child abuse and neglect cases. DCF is already struggling to manage it's resources wisely, and has even received failing grades in meeting children's needs... This issue has caused parents and their children undue stress and has created a financial burden to many families as well. And yet, these school administrators have not been arrested for filing false complaints to DCF... which is a crime in CT.

For the benefit of homeschoolers, and parents in general, as well as other interested parties in CT, National Home Education Legal Defense has posted the correspondence between DCF Commissioner, Susan Hamilton, and her legal staff, and Deborah Stevenson Executive Director of NHELD regarding changes to DCF policies regarding educational neglect and truancy; Changes which we hope will prevent unnecessary and costly DCF investigation based on false reports made by school administrators regarding families who disenroll their child from public school to homeschool. While there are a few points that still present a significant problem, DCF has made some changes that move their policies closer to matching state statutes. DCF has stated that they do not intend to make further changes, although it is hoped that they will address the outstanding issues, such as the use of the vague and confusing term "educational needs". DCF also will not address the issue of schools filing false complaints against parents, nor will they state that it is unacceptable to accept an allegation of educational neglect simply because a family decides to withdraw their child from school to homeschool them.

Following our request some months ago, for DCF Commissioner Susan Hamilton to amend the DCF policy manual to accurately reflect existing law concerning homeschooling in order to eliminate any confusion and to prevent future episodes of school officials falsely reporting parents who homeschool as educationally neglectful or their children as truant, Commissioner Hamilton finally, this week, provided her proposals for a redrafted policy manual.

NHELD first proposed changes to the DCF policy manual in March of 2006, and presented Commissioner Hamilton with a copy of those changes again on June 11, 2007, at a meeting in the Governor’s office. Commissioner Hamilton adopted some of our recommended changes, but we remained concerned that she made other changes and/or did not adopt other of our recommendations. Commissioner Hamilton also alluded to the fact that her agency may propose legislation regarding other issues still under consideration. She did not elaborate as to what that legislation would be. NHELD submitted another letter with recommendations to further clarify the policies and they responded in kind.

You can read the documents here:
  • On March 2006, NHELD made recommendations to the Commissioner and proposed them again on June 11 at the meeting in the Governor’s office can be viewed online here.
  • Commissioner Hamilton’s response on 08/27/07 and her proposed DCF policy changes are located here.
  • NHELD responds on 08/28/07 to Commissioner Hamilton located here.
  • DCF responded with a few more changes but still failed to address a few significant problems on 9/13/07. This draft of their policies is indicated as being "their final version".
  • NHELD's 09/24/07 response regarding the outstanding significant issues which still should be addressed.