Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Open Letter To The CT State Senate

Dear Senate Pro Tem Williams and CT State Senators,

As I sit here watching you all on CT-N debating and unanimously passing the Ethics Reform Bill with its amendment, and lauding the merits of working together in a bi-partisan manner to get important legislation passed, I can only wonder why it is that you cannot all work in a similar fashion to re-instate the language into SB162 that amends CGS 10-220, via LCO 4143 and LCO 4055, and pass the parental rights bill SB162. Instead, this bill is being held up and has been put to the foot of the calendar while parents across CT are being harassed by school administrators and DCF who threaten to take their children away from them even as you sit in session!

I know that many of you have already expressed your support and advocacy for this bill in the form that was originally and unanimously passed out of the Children's Committee with the help and leadership of Sen. Meyer, and for that parents across CT deeply thank and commend you. But for those of you who haven't expressed support or are unsure for some reason, we ask you to please reconsider, and to put party politics and Department of Education interests aside. It is time that you show the parents in this state that you support the rights that they have always had, and that you will put an end to the abuse of authority by school administrators and DCF that has been allowed to continue. By the volume and content of correspondence, you must know that your constituents are crying out to you for action and that their rights as parents cannot be compromised or haggled with.

Parents who have had their children sexually assaulted and bullied in school have also has to endure the bullying tactics of their local school administrators and of DCF as well. Parents who have decided that the public schools are not an appropriate choice for them are being harassed for choosing to withdraw. Parents should not be put into a position of asking permission to leave those public schools, especially when those schools have been abusive or hostile to their choice. Rather parents should be able to say they are withdrawing their children from public school and to have that declaration honored by the public school. That is what this bill's amendment seeks to accomplish, and in fact will accomplish. That was, and remains, the original intent. It will stop the current abuse of authority by schools from happening.

Put simply: When a parent sends a letter that they have written which says that they are withdrawing their children from public school, that letter should be honored by the school administrators and the child should be removed from the enrollment list upon receipt. There should be no reason for the school to continue to keep a child on their enrollment list only to report the child to DCF for truancy simply because the school disagrees with a parents choice to remove the child from public school. It is also unconscionable that schools should keep children on the enrollment lists merely to collect public funding for that child! That really constitutes fraud. You need to amend CGS 10-220 with the language offered by Rep. O'Neill and the Children's Committee. You need to stop the abuse of authority and harassment of parents. You need to protect parental rights in CT and You need to work together to do this NOW!

As always, CT parents who have been communicating with you welcome any and every chance to come to Hartford to speak with you about any questions or concerns that you have with this bill. Hear our voices. We elected you to represent US. Otherwise what will you say to the children who are now afraid of their government? What will you say to those children who have worked to study civics and believe that the voice of the people really does matter from where you sit? What will you say to the children who fear being taken away from their families because they have chosen non-public education? They are depending on YOU to work together and make the statement that in CT their parents and the choices they make regarding raising their families are protected. Understand too that someday those children will also be parents who may make similar decisions for their children. They want to have the right to make those choices preserved for them as have been preserved for the past 350 years.

Please do not delay. Take this bill off the foot of the Senate calendar, amend it to Rep. O'Neill's language and pass it to the House. Parents and children across CT are waiting to see you be the leaders and champions that we know you are.

Judy Aron


Anonymous said...

I was apppalled to watch the senate session tonight, and see how they all work together on other bills(bi partison) except for the SB 162, which everyone knows is being held up and contested by Sen. Gaffey, Rep. Fleischmann, and Mr. McQuillan. Now one must ask them this, if they say that they are trying to help homeschoolers, and that the BOE and superintendents etc. report to the Education Committee, then why is it that Sen. Gaffey etc. are refusing to pass this much needed bill amended back to the language needed to fix the problem? This only shows that they are allowing the abuse and accept it as being a practice that is okay to do to families that don't comply. Someone needs to be held accountable. The bully tactics and coercions that are going on behind closed doors right now on this bill is disgusting. WE elect them, We pay their salaries and they are there to speak for us. Now maybe Sen. Gaffey shouldn't think of running again for his office, because if he doesn't make this right, there will be alot of people not voting for him to get back in and do nothing again for them. If he really wants to help us homeschoolers then he needs to let it go through. What is he afraid of? That the bullying might actually stop? This is an outrage.
Stop playing political games and pass the bill the right way. Maybe all of the 5,000 homeschoolers should go to the capital and state where they stand on this issue and then it won't be dismissed again.

Anonymous said...

Please consider revising your pronouns since YOU do not speak for ALL. The strong-arm tactics, especially those intended to get everyone to hold to NHELD's particular position on this issue, are objectionable. And the personal nature of the attacks on Susan Hamilton at her appointment hearing was appalling. I don't particularly fault those in the throes of a stressful DCF challenge, but rather the legal counsel designed to fan the flames. It seems rather odd to assume there might not be some liability in choosing to enter the lion's den, and that timing might be everything when choosing to exit it. Evidently, however, NHELD saw the situation as opportunity to flex its apparently weak muscle. The miscalculation has resulted in serious fallout and it will take quite some time to repair the damage done to the reputation of the ENTIRE homeschool community. Perhaps next time common sense and wisdom will prevail over dogmatic militancy.

Judy Aron said...

Dear Anonymous 12:28 - (you don't even have the integrity and guts to use your own name to voice your pathetic opinion) How many families have you defended in the face of false DCF and school administrator allegations? None I bet - How many times have YOU had DCf show up to your door to strong arm YOU into complying with non-existent laws and threaten to take your children away from you? None I bet. How much money have YOU spent to defend yourself in a court of law against false allegations of abuse and educational neglect? None I guess.

You are clueless.

NHELD did not create this - the Department of Education did - nor have we damaged the reputation of the homeschool community in any way. Rather we have seen support for this issue grow and other organizations have joined us to stop the abuse of authority which you apparently condone.

You call it dogmatic militancy - we call it standing up for our rights which have obviously been trampled upon and YOU do not seem to give a whit about. Maybe YOU prefer living in fear from the State and DCF - fine for you. Go do what you will, but there are others who refuse to sit in the corner and be bullied by the State Department of Education and their agents. As for Susan Hamilton; what was appalling was her inaction on the issue up until the hearing. Appropriate changes to DCf policy were made as a result of our protest.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but you know nothing about me at all. Your response is precisely the kind of contentious, my-way-or-the-highway attitude that forces others who disagree with your tactics, approach and/or conclusions to remain anonymous. You should not, however, assume that I remain silent or uncaring.

Judy Aron said...

Anonymous 8:05, I know plenty about you, more than you realize.

Sounds like you are the contentious one here. So you don't agree... Big deal. You have a right to your opinion and tactics as well as I do. No one assumes that you or anyone else remains silenced.

What exactly are you afraid of in attaching your name to your opinion?

You want to debate - c'mon bring it on - but at least have the guts and integrity to put your name to it.

You can disagree all day but it doesn't mean crap unless you stand behind it with your name and reputation, as far as I am concerned. Hiding behind anonymity is easy.

Anonymous said...

Dear Judy,

The first post in this thread was anonymous too so I just followed suit. There was/is no evil intent on my part. I am not clueless, gutless, pathetic or lacking integrity - as you have called me - it's simply not routine for me to give out personal info via the Internet. What may surprise you is that I have done my fair share in contacting legislators to defeat this bill and others, that I do not favor filing a NOI, that I have exerted considerable effort and money in support of other homeschoolers over the years. Although we certainly have our differences, you and I are not far apart on the issues at hand. My frustration is with the idea that one particular view somehow embodies the will of the entire homeschool community with no dissent acceptable. (To be fair, I honestly don't know if that is your position but it certainly has been hammered continuously by NHELD supporters.) I also hold to the old-fashioned idea that one gets more flies with honey than vinegar, although I admit that at times I prefer to vigorously swat at them instead! At any rate, in today's rather contentious world, it seems wise to pick one's battles carefully, knowing there are likely more confrontations ahead. I would hope that since homeschoolers already walk to the beat of a different drummer, we might allow ourselves freedom of discourse in a polite manner. If in expressing my views and thoughts, I was offensive in my wording, I certainly apologize.


Judy Aron said...

Cammie - Thank you for your candor and courage. I apologize if I was offensive to you as well... but I have little patience for people who
put forth opinions without standing behind them with their name. Now that you have come forth, you certainly have my respect and we can discuss these issues open and honestly. Thank you for that.

First and foremost we have told legislators that NHELD does not represent all homeschoolers...and in fact we encourage all parents to communicate their opinions with their legislators. We have also made it known repeatedly that this bill, SB162 is NOT a homeschool is a parental rights bill. In it's present form it requires parents to ask permission from the school to withdraw versus the O'Neill version which directs school administrators to remove children from enrollment and that the parents wishes be honored.

NHELD also has not done anything unilaterally... we have been in contact, about these issues, with the leaders of various support groups in CT (TEACH, CHN, CHOOSECT, CTCHEER, Greater Woodbury Homeschoolers and a whole long list of other groups) I think we all agree that we don't want restrictions or regulation. It simply isn't necessary, and if private schools are not required to report or register then neither should we.

That being said.. we have tried for 15 years to get more flies with simply has not worked. In the past 5 years we have taken the time to meet with the Governor's office, the DOE (Betty Sternberg), legislative leadership, and the DCF Commissioner. They all said the issues surrounding the false reporting of parents needed to be fixed, but did nothing and allowed the abuse of authority to continue..and with their knowledge that it was happening too!

You have to realize that the DOE IS seeking to regulate us.. and whether it will be this year or next, or the year after that we must let them know that we will not take kindly to that, and we will fight for our rights. You can argue that taking that stance is militant. I don't believe it is militant to stand up for preserving your rights.

Abuse of authority has been escalating - and not because NHELD has caused it.. but because school administrators are being directed to report families. We have proof of that. The number of parents being harassed and hassled has increased in frequency and that has got to stop. I would be more than happy to go over with you case by case what has been happening at the hands of these school administrators and it did not matter if these parents signed an NOI - or filed requested papers - or jumped through hoops, because many of them did. They tried to co-operate. What they were being asked to do was unreasonable and unworkable. 100% of the time it was not in the interest of the child.

You should also know that NHELD did not initiate this bill SB162 - Art O'Neill did - we didn't ask him to do it.. he decided to lobby parents around the state with this idea of this bill this past summer because he wanted to put an end to parents being falsely reported to DCF.

I might also add that we have gotten more legislative support this year than in prior years. Many legislators have expressed great dismay with the bullying and coercive tactics of the DOE in the legislature, and of the Education Committee chairs. We have been working with many of them regarding the strategies we have employed.

You might not agree with the contentiousness, but unfortunately that is what we are up against - there is much at stake with regard to parental rights vs school administrative control. This fight has not been happening without our insistence to sit down and talk through the issues with legislators like Gaffey. Unfortunately, Gaffey and the DOE lawyers want legislation that is detrimental to us and we reject it.

I would be happy to listen to any of your ideas regarding strategy to help put an end to the abuse of authority that we have been dealing with. We have tried talking, reasoning, and meeting; we've been given empty promises, we've been lied to and we've been strung along. Too many people have had to endure great financial hardship, family trauma and upset for us to continue accepting those empty promises etc.

You certainly can dissent with anything NHELD, CHN, TEACH or anyone else has to say - but please know that this has not just begun this year or last - it has been very long in the making. We've picked our battles along the way - and this is the confrontation that has been in the making, and not by our choosing.

Cammie - I look forward to your response, and thank you in advance.