By James F. Tracy
On February 25 a press conference was held by parental rights groups calling attention to many of the conclusions of the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Report released on November 21, 2014. They argue the report’s recommendations, if adopted as state law, will likely pose a significant threat the right for families to homeschool their children. The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission was assembled by Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy in 2013.
Representatives of TEACH CT-The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers, NHELD-National Home Education Legal Defense, CHN-Connecticut Homeschool Network, Family Institute of Connecticut, Connecticut Against Common Core, Stop Common Core in New Milford, Quiet Corner Parents for Education, AbleChild, Informed Consent, Label & Drug Free Education, and Student Data Privacy: A Voice for the CT Children of P20 Win, gathered at the Connecticut State Legislative Office Building in Hartford. If you didn’t hear about the event you’re not alone. Only one US news outlet (the Hartford Courant) reported on it.
“This is a press conference to call attention to the increased government intrusion into the right of parents,” announced Donna Person, a home schooler and Vice President of the Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers.
We’ve seen this intrusion in our schools, where our children are monitored and tracked. The goal is to create a database from preschool to age 20 through the ‘p20 Win System.’ We’ve seen it medically, in cases such as Justina Peletier, where the government insisted it knows best, and took the child away from parents because the parents wanted a different doctor. And also more recently with the Sandy C case, where she has been taken from her parents and forced to receive chemotherapy. We’re also seeing it now extended to special needs population and home school students via the recommendations of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission.
If the provisions of the Sandy Hook Commission are passed, “it would make Connecticut the worst in the nation when it comes to home-schooling freedom,” noted Will Estrada, director of federal relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association.
“Parents are not going to take it anymore,” attorney Deborah Stevenson of the National Home Education Legal Defense told those assembled at the February 25 event.
We’re not going to stand by and let our parental rights go by the wayside. We’re announcing the formation of a coalition of about 12 different groups. The groups run the gamut; they cross party lines. It crosses class lines. We’re not just talking about education. We’re talking about medical issues, mental health issues–any issue that involves the rights of parents, because, as our Supreme Court has held repeatedly, we, the parents, have the affirmative obligation to the upbringing and education of the children. These children are not the government’s children. They’re our children.
Scott Jackson, Mayor of Hamden Connecticut, close associate of Governor Malloy, and chairman of the Sandy Hook panel, said if such a requirement were approved it would only apply to home-schooled children who had previously attended a public school. “If a child leaves a public school with an [individualized education program], that IEP should be monitored until it is no longer necessary,” Jackson said. Yet a disabled child who had never attended a public school would not be subject to the requirement, he said.
The assurance contrasts with the Report’s overall thrust, summarized by MHB in November, of which the key recommendations include:
- Universal screening for behavioral health and developmental impairments for children ages birth to 21.
- Referral for thorough evaluation and assessment by outside experts for a child “displaying the types of multidisciplinary developmental challenges [Adam Lanza] presented…”
- Access to “quality care coordination” for children and their families.
- Access to training and information concerning mental health issues for teachers, administrators, service personnel, pediatricians, and parents.
- Staffing and financial supports for providers.
- Effective and sustained family engagement work as part of mental health treatment for children.
- Addressing of the “role of denial in illness.”
- Access to therapeutic services, psycho-education, and peer support for families.
- Readiness of “systems” to respond when a parent appears unwilling or unable to meet the needs of their child [aka refuses to medicate].
- Better outreach to parents who have difficulties “reaching out” or feel “mistrust in the medical and educational systems…” [such as those who homeschool]
- Active participation of schools concerning the mental health and wellness of their students.
- Support to schools to enable them to “retain or import therapeutic and other related services…”
- Evaluation of children by schools “in all areas of suspected disability, including conducting social-emotional evaluations…”
- A more “holistic approach to identification for special education eligibility that encourages attention to multiple aspects of disability…”
- State consideration of “an audit of existing homebound practices and procedures…”
- More attention paid to “post-secondary readiness for disabled youth and young adults…”
- “State and local educational and mental health and developmental services agencies must work together to identify current capacity and service delivery needs, training opportunities, and must create capacity-building services at all levels.”
- Increased workforce, technical support and expertise to help meet the needs of “children with complex developmental or mental health disorders, and their families.”
- Support for schools to provide and import “comprehensive health or developmental supports” to children with “highly specialized needs.”
the OCA report lays the groundwork for implementation of a nationwide program similar to the one presently being beta tested in Scotland, “Getting it Right for Every Child,” or GIRFEC. The GIRFEC project mandates assignment of a “Named Person for every child and young person, and a Lead Professional (where necessary) to co-ordinate and monitor multi-agency activity” that renders the traditional family to the role of a distant caretaker.
In December 2014 ten families of children slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School filed suit against the distributor and manufacturer of the AR-15 Bushmaster, citing the popular non-military firearm’s alleged involvement in the children’s deaths. That event was a national news story.
As noted, almost a complete news blackout of the Wednesday, February 25 press conference ensued, despite the presence of reporters from the Hartford Courant and the Associated Press. A LexisNexis search on the event yields only the Courant‘s single front page story appearing on Monday, March 2, “Home Schooling Parents Bristle at Sandy Hook Policy Recommendations.” The newspaper played a central role in presenting the Sandy Hook massacre event to an international audience.
“Adam Lanza, the gunman who shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults,” the Courant reports, “received homebound instruction through the Newtown school system when he was in eighth grade.” Yet “homebound instruction,” administered to Lanza because of his disability, is not the same as home-schooling, which is usually overseen by one or both parents.
This is a crucial distinction that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Report does not forthrightly address or clarify. Rather, the document repeatedly suggests that Lanza’s isolation was a significant factor in the December 14, 2012 mass shooting.
“Despite the conclusion of the Office of the Child Advocate that no links could be drawn between the failures in Adam Lanza’s education … his violence, the Advisory Commission determined that home-schooled students are socially isolated, that isolation leads to violence and that this requires mandatory government oversight,” said Person. “This flies in the face of extensive, well-respected, peer-reviewed published research into the social, emotional and mental health of home-educated students.”
 Press Conference of CT Parental Rights Groups Fighting Conclusions From Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Report, Hartford CT, February 25, 2015.
 Daniela Altimari, “Home Schooling Parents Bristle at Sandy Hook Policy Recommendations,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 2015, A1.
 Press Conference of CT Parental Rights Groups.
 Altimari, “Home Schooling Parents Bristle.”
 Vivian Lee and James F. Tracy, “CT Report Lays Groundwork for Nationwide Psychiatric Surveillance,” Memory Hole Blog, November 23, 2015.
 Altimari, “Home Schooling Parents Bristle.”