NHELD, LLC examines and explains the history of the law pertaining to
homeschooling, and the authority of parents to instruct their children from
the inception of the Connecticut
colony to the present. It is important to note that the governmental
authority to regulate education, as well as all other issues not mentioned
specifically mentioned in the Federal Constitution, is left up to the
states. Therefore, each state's laws regarding homeschooling will differ
(see the Statutes page for more details).
Below are articles written
which speak about Connecticut
history regarding parental rights and homeschooling. In the future, we hope
to add the history of homeschooling of all states.
of Parental Authority
Other Frequently Asked
What is 'truancy' and can Connecticut homeschoolers be considered
Truancy, or being truant, does
not apply to homeschoolers: it is defined by state statute as "a child
age five to eighteen, inclusive, who is enrolled in a public or private
school and has four unexcused absences from school in any one month or ten
unexcused absences from school in any school year."
Truancy is, by its nature, applicable
to "compulsory attendance" (the requirement that a child enrolled
in public school must attend said school), not to "compulsory
education" (the requirement that children must receive an education).
The truancy statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. §10-198a, specifically provides that
"children who are enrolled in public and private schools" and who
receive a certain number of "unexcused absences" shall be
considered truant. Homeschooled children, by definition, are not
"enrolled in a public or a private school", and in a homeschool,
there is no such thing as an "unexcused absence" - therefore they
cannot be considered truant.
Just to make the meaning of
the truancy statute perfectly clear to superintendents, CT's C.U.R.E.
requested Senator Kevin Sullivan to propose an amendment to that
statute. He did so and the legislature passed the amendment into
law. That amendment is now known as Conn. Gen. Stat.
§10-198a(e). It states, in affirmation of the other existing laws,
that the provisions of the truancy statute "shall not apply" to
those children receiving equivalent instruction in accordance with Conn.
Gen. Stat. §10-184.
On two other occasions since
that time, on behalf of homeschoolers, State Representative Arthur
O'Neill proposed amendments that would strengthen parental authority
concerning home education. Representative O'Neill succeeded in
persuading the legislature to adopt those amendments. They are now
known as §10-184a and §10-184b. Their importance to this discussion
is only to show that the policy position of the Connecticut Board of
Education, the Connecticut Department of Education, and the Connecticut
General Assembly, for hundreds of years, as reinforced as recently as this
past decade, has been that parents have the obligation and the authority to
educate their own children. That policy should not be changed.
does the issue of regulation keep being raised?
asserting the "need" for regulation, the two issues that
primarily are emphasized are the issues of equivalent instruction and
potential parental neglect. These issues were thoroughly debated and
studied in 1989-1990 prior to issuance of the C-14 Guidelines. Some
of the conclusions that were drawn at that time included the following:
It is impossible to define
equivalent instruction. For example:
a. If superintendents are to determine if the instruction in a
homeschool is equivalent to that in the public schools, which public
schools should we use as the standard? Should the instruction be equivalent
to the public school in downtown Hartford
or to the public school in Westport?
Should we determine that it is equivalent at the beginning of the year or
at the end of the year? What happens if the curricula or materials in the
public school change? Do we assess the homeschool based on the
equivalency of the old curricula and materials or the new?
b. How do we assess the child's progress? Do we impose a
standardized test based on the curricula as taught in the public school, or
do we impose a standardized test based on the curricula in the homeschool?
If we base it on the curricula in the homeschool, whose homeschool
curricula do we use when each family uses a different curricula?
c. If the standard is 'equivalency', wouldn't that prevent a
homeschooler from having a better
As you can see, the Connecticut Board of Education concluded that it was
not reasonable or practical to determine "equivalent
instruction." This is why it was not addressed in the C-14
Guidelines other than to suggest that a portfolio review be conducted
simply to show that "the subjects listed in §10-184 were taught."
It is likewise
impossible to define 'educational neglect'. For example:
a. Is educational neglect when a child does not do his
schoolwork, or when a child does not learn the material? If so, then
possibly a third of the public school districts and their teachers could be
considered to be educationally neglectful because their students do not do
their schoolwork and do not learn the material.
b. Is educational neglect when a child does nothing all year? If
so, then, again, how many public school districts are educationally
neglectful when they utilize "social promotion" and pass students
who have done nothing all year to the next grade?
The question is also often
raised, "What if a child is in physical danger because a parent
leaves that child at home alone?"
The answer is, there already
exist a myriad of laws protecting children from truly abusive and
neglectful parents. These laws are more than sufficient to protect
children who homeschool as well.
Another oft-asked question is, "How can we tell if these children
are being abused if they are not in public school?" The answer to
this question is, you can tell if homeschooled children are being abused
the same way public school superintendents tell if children in private
schools are being abused: Wait for a reasonable, articulable suspicion,
seek a warrant based on probable cause, and utilize constitutional and
Homeschool children are not isolated in a cave. They participate in a
variety of activities in the community where a problem can be detected if
it truly exists.
The real problem that exists
today is not a problem involving the lack of instruction or abuse in
homeschools, it is a problem with public school superintendents or other
government officials abusing their authority, overstepping their bounds,
misunderstanding, or misapplying the law and suggested procedures.
The blame for this, in the State of Connecticut,
at least, can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the former State
Commissioner of Education, Theodore Sergi, and the Chief of the Office of
Legal Affairs, Mark Stapleton. These two people were in positions of
authority and understood fully the difference between enforceable statutory
and administrative regulations and unenforceable "suggested
procedures." Yet, they repeatedly condoned the misinterpretation
of the C-14 Guidelines and the actions of superintendents who intimidate
parents with threats of truancy or neglect charges when the parents do not
"comply" with a "suggested" procedure. These
allegations are the result of years of working on behalf of parents from
all across the state who have gone through weeks, sometimes months, of
intimidation by these superintendents. This matter was brought
to the attention of Commissioner Sergi and Mark Stapleton on numerous
occasions during which they could have clarified for the superintendents the
differences between statutory law and suggested procedure, but they chose
not to do so. There can be no excuse for such wanton leadership.
about federal legislation?
The right of the state's
elected government officials to determine the quantity and quality of
regulation of homeschooling in the state should not be undermined by
unnecessary federal legislation. There are few, if any,
"problems" with the existing system of homeschooling in Connecticut that
require "fixing" by means of federal legislation. The state
legislature is very familiar with all of the issues involved in
homeschooling and is more than capable of developing statutes, when and if
necessary, to resolve "problems" if those "problems"
are shown to exist in the future. For further information, this website has
an entire page devoted to the issue of federal
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