Bulletin #75   More CT Proposed Legislation Regarding Children’s Mental Health Assessment           02/07/2013

 

When the legislature is in session, no one is ever safe.  The legislature can adopt any number of laws that would invade the privacy and the rights of parents.  It is always important to keep a very watchful eye on what they are doing and to take action, when appropriate.  The key is in knowing when to act, and how to be effective in acting.

As we notified parents previously, right now before the Connecticut General Assembly there is a bill that, if enacted, would directly affect parents who homeschool their children.  That bill is Proposed Senate Bill 374.  It reads:

"AN ACT REQUIRING BEHAVIORAL HEALTH ASSESSMENTS FOR CHILDREN.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General
Assembly convened:
 That section 10-206 of the general statutes be amended to require

(1) each pupil enrolled in public school at grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 and each
 home-schooled child at ages 12, 14 and 17 to have a confidential
 behavioral health assessment, the results of which shall be disclosed
 only to the child's parent or guardian, and (2) each health care
 provider performing a child's behavioral health assessment to
 complete the appropriate form supplied by the State Board of
 Education verifying that the child has received the assessment.
Statement of Purpose:
To provide behavioral health assessments to children."

As NHELD stated previously, this bill is in the screening stage before the Public Health Committee, has not been placed on the agenda of any of the Committee meetings, and has not been scheduled for any public hearing.  It is possible that it may never be placed on the agenda for a meeting or be scheduled for a public hearing.  We simply don't know at this point. Therefore, it is prudent to watch, wait, and obtain more information before acting on this bill.

Another bill has been proposed in a similar vein.  It is Proposed Senate Bill 169.  It reads,

"AN ACT CONCERNING THE ASSESSMENT AND DELIVERY OF
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AND INTERVENTIONS FOR CHILDREN.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General
Assembly convened:
 That chapter 169 of the general statutes be amended to require that
 local and regional boards of education and health care providers assess
 every child for social, emotional, behavioral and mental health to
 ensure the delivery of necessary services and interventions.
Statement of Purpose:
To enhance the provision of social, emotional, behavioral and mental
health services."

This bill is before the Children's Committee.  It apparently was placed on the agenda of a committee meeting, and it has been scheduled for a public hearing on February 14, 2013.  While at first glance, it sounds as though Senate Bill 169 purports to do the same thing as Senate Bill 374, it is extremely important not to jump to conclusions.  Legally speaking, one needs to review the exact language in any bill to determine its true effect.
For example, Bill 169 does not include the word "homeschool" at all.  Therefore, as it stands right now, based on the plain language of the bill, this bill has no direct effect on parents who homeschool their children.  In fact, Bill 169 says that the statutes are to be amended to require the assessments. It does not even specify when those statutes are to be amended, or in what manner.  To be sure, there are many arguments that can be made that the bill, as it is written now, should not be adopted.  But it would not be accurate to say that, at this time, this bill directly affects the rights of homeschooling parents.

There are many stages in the life of any bill.  The chairmen of each committee may change the language in the bill before it gets voted on, before or after a public hearing takes place on the bill.  The public hearing on Bill 169 is scheduled to take place on February 14If anyone wants to comment on the bill, they are certainly free to do so.  But, NHELD suggests that those who do comment on it be very careful not to allege that this bill is a direct threat against homeschooling. If we approach the legislature as homeschoolers, it is most important that we speak with accuracy and intelligence.  Remember that the key is to persuade.  Appearing to react to something that is not actually contained in a bill will not achieve your goal.  It may have the opposite effect and may even make legislators disregard your opinion.

In the aftermath of the tragedy of Sandy Hook, this legislature undoubtedly will adopt some changes in our laws addressing the mental health of troubled youth, whether or not one believes they should.  Given these unique circumstances, we need to be smart in developing a strategy to address any legislation that ultimately is developed by the legislature.  We urge you to remain calm, patient, but ever vigilant, and approach these issues from a position of strength with thoughtfulness and strength.

NHELD is watching the situation as it will continue to develop, and is working with the homeschool community, in general, to develop a plan of action that is as effective as possible.   We will put forth more information as it develops.


Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson
P.O. Box 704
Southbury, CT  06488
Tel. (860) 354-3590
Fax (860) 354-9360
Cell (203) 206-4282

 

Attorney Deborah Stevenson - Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense.www.nheld.com or email : info@nheld.com

Judy Aron - Director of Research, NHELD – imjfaron@sbcglobal.net