Avoiding The Accusation Of Educational Neglect
Legal opposition to homeschooling takes several forms. One of the scariest is the accusation of “educational neglect,” as if we were a mother out of a VC Andrews’ horror novel, locking our children in the attic. What can you do or not do to avoid being accused of educational neglect? Now I’m not a lawyer, and this shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. I’m just one voice doing a bit of research on the web here.
How is educational neglect defined? In a Home Education Magazine Article, “Taking Charge,” educational neglect is defined as parents failing to ensure that their children are provided an education consistent with standards adopted by the state. The standards for each state can be found my Content Standards page, an annotated list of Internet sites with K-12 educational standards and curriculum frameworks documents for each U.S. state and Canadian province. These documents get printed out and handed to teachers, administrators, and scrounged by publishers anxious to sell text books. Parents and students need to look here to find out what the state thinks should be learned ideally at each grade level. Do your local schools attain these standards?
Even if they can’t attain these standards in their own public schools, some government and school officials are attempting to enforce them as if they were laws rather than ideals. They want to routinely come into a homeschooler’s house, observe “teaching,” look over curriculum, records of attendance, and even health records. They want the children to come in for testing. They feel they would then know whether or not a family were neglecting their children’s education. It is a “guilty until proven innocent” situation.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway defines educational neglect as any of the following:
|Permitted Chronic Truancy||Habitual truancy averaging at least 5 days a month was classifiable under this form of maltreatment if the parent/guardian had been informed of the problem and had not attempted to intervene.|
|Failure to Enroll/Other Truancy||Failure to register or enroll a child of mandatory school age, causing the school-aged child to remain at home for nonlegitimate reasons (e.g., to work, to care for siblings, etc.) an average of at least 3 days a month.|
|Inattention to Special Education Need||Refusal to allow or failure to obtain recommended remedial educational services, or neglect in obtaining or following through with treatment for a child’s diagnosed learning disorder or other special education need without reasonable cause.|
In some states, the definition of educational neglect is quietly being changed. Here’s an example from some new legislation recently introduced in California, February 24, 1999, AB 804: [Note: this bill has been effectively tabled for now.]
(k) The child is over the age of six years and has suffered educational neglect as a result of the willful or negligent failure of the child’s parent or guardian to enroll the child in school or to ensure regular school attendance by the child or the parent’s or guardian’s willful or negligent interference with the regular school attendance of the child.
The best way to defeat such legislation is by a grassroots effort. I recommend that you write as an individual to your state legislators if such a bill occurs in your state. Also, keep in touch with yourstate homeschooling association. Membership is usually inexpensive and worth every nickel.
If you would also keep an eye out for such legislation in your area and would like me to post about it on this page, please email me with as much information and link references as possible. I will also be watching email lists for such legislation, so do check back.
New York City web site defines educational neglect in the following manner, and then goes on to explain how you should officially withdraw your child from the school system in order to homeschool if it looks like attendence is going to be a big problem.
“Educational neglect includes allowing unexplained absences from school, failure to enroll a school-age child in school, refusal of recommended remedial services without good reason and failure to respond to attendance questions.”
They then go on to answer one person’s question:
Q: My child is enrolled in a school, but I have decided for safety and educational reasons that I would prefer to educate my child at home (called “home-schooling”). Can I be charged with educational neglect for not sending my child to school?
A: If you remove your child from a school you must officially withdraw the child’s name from the school and district office rosters. You must also ensure that you can provide all the proper home school registration materials and curriculum documentation upon request.
The Department of Children and Families in Connecticut defines it in the following statement:
“Educational neglect occurs when a person responsible for the child’s health, welfare or care interferes with the ability of a child age seven (7) to fifteen (15) to receive proper care and attention educationally.”
By Ann Zeise
Others Address This Concern
Answering the CPS Questions
A group of homeschoolers in my county decided to find answers to these questions. We invited Mr. Edwin H. Schuster, from the Virginia Child Protective Services, to speak with our group. Here is what we asked, and what he had to say. By Shay Seaborne.
Child Abuse Educational Guide
Hasbro & Hasbro, a legal firm, has compiled a guide to assist in the understanding of the different types of child abuse, how to recognize the signs, and the legal implications. If you suspect a child is your life is being abused, call the Childhelp National Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD for immediate assistance.
Children’s Protective Services, Educational Neglect and Homeschooling
In the 2001 case of In re Janet T., the California appellate court held that children cannot be removed from the care and custody of their parents solely based on the allegation that they are not attending school. HSC.
Contact By Child Protective Services
Educational neglect alone cannot be a basis for an investigation and police officers and CPS workers cannot enter your home without a warrant. Under no circumstances should you let social workers or police officers into your home without a warrant. HSC.
Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out
HARO is a non-profit organization dedicating to developing partnerships between homeschooling parents and alumni to make homeschooling better for future generations. We aim to equip parents and communities with community-specific information about issues such as child abuse, mental health, self-injury, and LGBT* students’ needs.
Homeschoolers and Social Services
Some materials published by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) include frightening scenarios that depict homeschoolers being threatened by agents of Social Services. But what are the chances that a homeschooling family would ever have contact with Social Services? Does HSLDA truly offer any real protection? And what other resources are available?
How Can Homeschoolers Avoid Truancy Officers or Children’s Protection Service?
There are, however, certain risk factors that may bring certain homeschooling families to the attention to government authorities or escalate the contact to the point of requiring judicial intervention. HSC.
Protecting Ourselves from Truancy and CPS Investigations: Avoiding Referrals
First, compliance with one of the legal ways to homeschool is crucial. Second, the following factors may result in a referral: Pulling children out of public or private school after a dispute with the school (i.e.: ongoing truancy problems); custody battles; welfare referrals; or neighborhood disputes. As long as children are healthy, happy, involved with the community, and appear to be learning and thriving, the likelihood of a referral is reduced. HSC.
Responding to a Visit from Children’s Protective Services
Recovering quickly, you stammer, “I’m sorry, what did you say? Do you have a warrant? Well then, no, you can’t come in and you can’t talk to my children.” HSC.