HARTFORD, Conn. — Homeschooling organizations continue to express opposition to plans by the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission to monitor certain homeschoolers to prevent future acts of violence such as occurred in 2012 during the notorious Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
As previously reported, lawmakers in Connecticut proposed a bill in 2013 that would have mandated mental health assessments for both public school and homeschooled children. The bill, which was likely in response to the massacre, faced opposition from homeschool supporters and ultimately died in committee.
But discussion over the matter continued as some believe that the incident could have been better prevented should there have been sufficient mental health assistance for gunman Adam Lanza. Recently, the Commission submitted a new proposal requesting that homeschool children with behavioral health problems be “identified and evaluated.”
“Although Connecticut in particular imposes very few regulatory requirements on parents who choose to homeschool their children, and parents‘ rights to do so enjoy legal protection, the Commission finds that some homeschooled children with serious social, emotional and behavioral health difficulties may be cut off from needed services if their parents or guardians lack the resources, knowledge or motivation to provide support for healthy development in these areas,” its report reads.
“Therefore the commission recommends that each board of education in Connecticut ensure that all children with disabilities—including children with significant emotional, social and/or behavioral difficulties—who are in need of special education and related services in order to make adequate progress be identified and evaluated in accordance with the (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) IDEA,” the commission outlines.
The report further recommends that homeschooled children with disabilities have an individual education program (IEP), which would need to be approved by the special education director of the area education agency. Regular reporting would also be required.
“Connecticut should therefore require that a parent providing homeschooling to a child with identified emotional, social and/or behavioral difficulties of a significant nature sufficient to require special education and related services
file with the local superintendent on a regular basis (at least annually) progress reports prepared by an individualized education program team selected by the parent,” the commission proposed. “The state should also consider requiring that a parent‘s obligations under [the law] encompass approval of the individualized education plan and adequate progress as documented in these reports.”
But some state that the recommendations are are problematic.
“National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD), is disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission continues to show sheer ignorance of law and disregard for parental rights in its final report on this most tragic event,” said attorney Deborah Stevenson with the National Home Education Legal Defense. “The government cannot compel a parent to accept public school education, including special education. What is the purpose of reporting other than to compel special education?”
“Is the commission still operating on another faulty premise–that Lanza was homeschooled?” she continued, noting that Lanza was homebound, which is different from homeschooling. “Why else would the commission make recommendations about homeschooling when that had nothing to do with Lanza and this horrific crime?”
Stevenson said that parents already have access to private services, and that any requirement outside of that is forced public education.
“Parents already have access to those services—privately. They can get better services and more individualized services, faster and more appropriately privately than they can in the public school. If they need more, they can enroll the child in the public school, and they do,” she explained. “Parents cannot select an IEP team under IDEA. Filing of progress reports and approval by the public school district is the equivalent of compelling a parent to have a child receive a public school education.”
The 250-page report will be submitted to Gov. Daniel Malloy for review.