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Tel.: (860) 354-3590

P.O. Box 704, Southbury, CT  06488

Cell: (203) 206-4282

Email: info@nheld.com

Fax: (860) 354-9360

Web: www.nheld.com

 

Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, Executive Director

 

NHELD Position on Connecticut Bill SB930 -   02/23/11

 

There is proposed legislation in the CT legislature:  SB930 AN ACT CONCERNING THE SCHOOL ENTRANCE AGE.  (http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/TOB/S/2011SB-00930-R00-SB.htm)

To change the school entrance age requirement, beginning in the school year commencing July 1, 2012, from January first to October first, and to delete the provision allowing parents to withhold enrolling their child in kindergarten until the child is seven years old.

The section of Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-184 that is being amended by SB930 never, repeat never, applied to homeschool families.  

That section reads (with amended part in red):  The parent or person having control of a child five years of age shall have the option of not sending the child to school until the child is six years of age. [and the parent or person having control of a child six years of age shall have the option of not sending the child to school until the child is seven years of age.] The parent or person shall exercise such option by personally appearing at the school district office and signing an option form. The school district shall provide the parent or person with information on the educational opportunities available in the school system.

This section of the statute only applied to those parents who were intending on sending their children to the public school, but who wanted to wait for an extra year.  That's all this section was about ever, precisely because it involves the compulsory attendance portion of the law.  Parents who are instructing their children at home (at any age), and who intend to continue to do so, do not have to go to the school to "opt out".  They never did.  The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) apparently does not understand this.

 NHELD has known about this bill since it was introduced, and did not share information about it with the homeschool community because it is not a homeschool issue. Again, it has absolutely nothing to do with the rights of homeschoolers.  SB930 is amending the compulsory attendance portion of the bill, which, as NHELD often has explained, has absolutely nothing to do with the rights of parents to instruct their own children.  Our rights come from the first sentence of 10-184, the compulsory education portion of the statute.  If parents are undertaking their obligation under that first sentence and are instructing their own children, then the compulsory attendance portion of the statute does not apply to them.

When Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-184 was amended several years ago to add the particular sentence that includes the "opt out" section, it was understood by everyone in the legislature that it had nothing to do with the right of homeschoolers.  It has been understood as meaning that by parents and government officials since that time as well. If the legislature eliminates it, it will not affect homeschoolers who are choosing to, or who are continuing to, homeschool.  It only affects those who decide to enroll in the public school.  

In my opinion, this is nothing more than HSLDA, once again, misunderstanding and/or misinterpreting our Connecticut law, intentionally or unintentionally to instill fear and possibly interest in increasing their membership.   Those rights are not being threatened by this bill.  It's just that simple.  NHELD holds this opinion due to recent information.  In 2003, HSLDA was touting that its membership stood at 800,000.  A couple of weeks ago, when NHELD was in New Hampshire testifying in favor of a homeschool freedom bill before that state’s legislature, HSLDA was testifying against that particular bill and in favor of another bill which would have "criminalized" homeschooling if parents failed to follow state regulations.  At that same hearing, the HSLDA attorney told the New Hampshire legislators that its membership now stands at 160,000 (He did not mention that it previously stood at 800,000).  NHELD repeatedly through the years has asked HSLDA to correctly explain Connecticut law, based on historical fact, to no avail. Because of this, NHELD questions why the attorneys for HSLDA would continue to refuse to recognize the actual history of our law, or the meaning of it, and instead repeatedly disseminates misleading information.  

NHELD would be the first one to join with HSLDA if parents’ rights to homeschool actually were being threatened. If NHELD truly believed that homeschoolers rights were being threatened, we would be shouting from the rooftops and asking for support.  We do not think that going to the legislature and telling them that the compulsory attendance law affects homeschoolers is a very smart thing to do. It is inaccurate, misleading, and will undermine our reputation with the legislators.

 Unlike in other states, in Connecticut, children who are instructed by their parents simply are not subject in any way, shape or form to the compulsory attendance section of the law.  Changing any portion of the compulsory attendance section of the law regarding the age in which children must attend, simply has nothing to do with homeschoolers.  

 

Author:  Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, Executive Director, National Home Education Legal Defense, LLC.  © 2011.  All rights reserved.

 

Attorney Stevenson formed National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) in 2003 to prevent the adoption of unconstitutional federal legislation concerning the rights of parents. NHELD’s website can be found at: www.nheld.com.  Attorney Stevenson previously founded Connecticut Citizens to Uphold the Right to Educate, which operated from 1990 to 2003.  She is currently legal advisor to the Connecticut Grassroots Alliance and has a private practice in Constitutional, Educational, and Appellate Law in Southbury, CT.  She can be reached at info@nheld.com, or by calling (860) 354-3590 or (203) 206-4282.