Connecticut families who choose to home-school their children are not required to show that their kids are actually learning anything. A new report from the state's Office of the Child Advocate found that holes in the system make it hard to track home-schooled kids who are abused and neglected.
In the wake of a Hartford teenager's death at home, the Office of the Child Advocate wanted to look into how home schooling is regulated. It explored six different districts over a three-year span, and found that over a third of the students who had been withdrawn to be home-schooled lived in families where the Department of Children and Families was aware of possible abuse and neglect.
"We want parents to be able to home-school, but not every kid that's withdrawn from school is being educated,” said Sarah Eagan, the state’s child advocate, speaking on Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live.
"While we strongly support parents that home-school,” Eagan continued, “what we're pointing out, is that there are unintended, and in some cases harmful consequences, from having no system or any check on a parent's ability to withdraw their child from school."
Connecticut is one of only 11 states that doesn't regulate home-schooling. The state education department issued guidance on this over two decades ago, but the child advocate found that none of the six districts followed that guidance. None could offer any documentation, data, of evidence of follow-up to see how these kids were doing.
"Courts have found that states have a compelling interest in ensuring that children are educated, and ensuring that children are protected from abuse and neglect, and that home schooling regulations have to balance those interests,” Eagan said. “Well in Connecticut, we don't have a balancing of those interests because we have no regulation."
There are currently no pending state bills addressing this issue. The last time the legislature tried to take this up was in the months after the Sandy Hook murders. A bill would have required mental health screening of all kids of a certain age -- even those in home-school. Over 100 parents came out against the bill. It died in committee.