As you may have noticed, a fair number of the recent posts on Gooseberry Lane have referenced CT Senate Bill 162, An Act Concerning the Withdrawal of a Child from Enrollment in a Public School. To date, most of what has been posted is logistical stuff --- hearing times, hearing locations, that sort of thing. Today, I would like to take a moment to discuss the bill itself and why I think Connecticut homeschoolers should think twice before supporting it in its revised form. Please be advised that I am not an attorney and the following statements are merely my opinion.
AN ISSUE OF WORDING AND APPLICABLE STATUTES
First, and most obvious, the wording of the current legislation is not the wording that was originally proposed. This is the original wording:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
That subsection (a) of section 10-220 of the general statutes be amended to provide when a parent or guardian of a child provides by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the principal of the school that the child attends or to the superintendent of the local or regional board of education, written notice originated by and signed by the parent or guardian of a child stating that the parent or guardian is withdrawing the child from enrollment in a public school and will provide instruction for the child as required pursuant to section 10-184 of the general statutes, the principal of the school that the child attends or the local or regional board of education shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from enrollment in the public school immediately upon receipt of such notice.
For those who may not know, Section 10-220 of the general statutes enumerates the duties of boards of education, and the list is quite long. Per homeschoolers, boards of education are responsible for causing our students (of applicable age) to attend school in accordance with the provisions of Section 10-184, which means they can request a demonstration of equivalent instruction. The applicable portion of subsection (a) of Section 10-220 currently reads thus:
Pertinent Text of Statute 10-220
…shall cause each child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age who is not a high school graduate and is living in the school district to attend school in accordance with the provisions of section 10-184...
As you can see, the original wording of CT Senate Bill 162 would be added to this text. The purpose for this change would be to allow parents to homeschool their children and to require the board of education to respect that decision once it is made. The burden of compliance, if you will, per the notice of withdrawal would fall heaviest on the board of education. Parents would need to file the paperwork, of course, but once filed, it could not be interfered with by any action on the part of the board of education. Their only duty/responsibility would be to take the notice into their possession, acknowledge receipt of it, and immediately remove the child from the enrollment records of the school. No questions asked and no additional requirements beyond what is already enumerated in section 10-184 of the general statutes (equivalent instruction).
That is what would have happened had the original wording manifested itself in the draft bill. Unfortunately, during the drafting process, the wording of the bill was changed. The new wording looks like this:
Text of New Bill
If the parent or other person having control of a child elects to provide the instruction required pursuant to this section to such child, such parent or other person may withdraw such child from school upon providing the notice described in this subsection to the principal of the school the child is attending or the superintendent of schools for the local or regional school district in which such school is located. Such notice shall (1) state that the parent or other person is withdrawing the child from school and that such required instruction will be provided by the parent or other such person, (2) be in writing, (3) be signed by such parent or other person, and (4) be delivered by certified mail, return receipt requested. Such principal and superintendent of schools and the local or regional board of education for such school district shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from school immediately upon receipt of such notice.
If you were thinking to yourself that this wording doesn’t sound that much different than the original wording, you would be correct. However, the problem lies not just in the wording but in the fact that the new wording is a change to a completely different statute, Section 10-184 of the general statutes, NOT Section 10-220. Again, for those who may not know, Section 10-184 enumerates the duties of parents, meaning that should this new version of the bill become law, the burden of compliance could fall heaviest on the parent and each school district could, potentially, engage in the same shenanigans per non-acceptance of the notice of intent that has occurred for some time now in various parts of the state. Actually, I believe the fear is that school district officials may become even bolder in their attitude toward the notice of intent as they attempt to define the new term, “required instruction,” insisting that it must be demonstrated before a withdrawal notice would be deemed complete enough to “accept.” See the difference?
Practically speaking, regardless of where the new wording is installed or whether the wording that is used is new or original, the effect on Connecticut homeschoolers whose children are already being instructed at home will be non-existent should this bill become law. This debate is about formalizing a procedure whereby future homeschoolers could remove their children from school without the potential for harassment. By installing the original wording in Section 10-220 that potential is minimized; installing it in Section 10-184 adds a withdrawal procedure and, some would argue, keeps that potential for harassment intact.
Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.