Homeschool groups respond to scathing report from child advocate - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Homeschool groups respond to scathing report from child advocate office

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Homeschool groups rallied at the capitol against a report by the Child Advocate. (WFSB) Homeschool groups rallied at the capitol against a report by the Child Advocate. (WFSB)

Leaders from homeschool groups across the state responded to a report released by the Office of the Child Advocate.

The report referenced the death of a disabled teen from Hartford, Matthew Tirado. The office said more should have been done to protect the child from prolonged abuse and neglect. His mother is now behind bars.

As part of the investigation, it dove deeper into the state's safety net for children withdrawn from school for the purpose of homeschooling.

However, homeschool groups said they have unfairly come under attack or scrutiny.

Parents and groups stood outside of the capitol to demand an answer to why.

"Our position that we talked about in our report has nothing to do with the merits of homeschooling and is in no way seeking to challenge parents' rights to homeschool," said Sarah Eagan, acting child advocate. “We look forward to a continued conversation with all stakeholders to do to the best for the most vulnerable children among us.”

"That's really what the point is today, is to ask her to provide the background where she collected this info from. We've asked for Freedom of Information Acts, months ago, and none of them have been fulfilled," said Crystal Heft, vice president of the Connecticut Homeschool Network.

While Matthew Tirado was enrolled in Hartford Public Schools, the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) found his mother didn't allow him to go to school about one year leading up to his death.

His younger sister was also withdrawn from school but the Department of Children and Families determined she wasn't being homeschooled.

That raised the question of what's being done to follow up with children and families, after these students are taken out of school.

"They have an admirable responsibility to keeping track of those children who are at risk. Aligning the inquiry into Matthew Tirado's death with by the way let's look into homeschoolers, there's a disconnect,” said parent Sharon Dix.

According to the report, Connecticut has been identified as a state with very few requirements or regulations with regard to homeschooling.

The OCA also learned from information requested from six school districts between 2013 and 2016 that out of the 380 students withdrawn to be homeschooled, 138 were involved with DCF.

Some parents feel they're facing unfair scrutiny and coming under fire, being linked to a case that does not relate to the work they are doing at home.

"The Child Advocate's Office strongly supports parents' right to direct the education of their children, to protect their children, to make sure the safety and well-being of their children are being met. Our position is that Connecticut has almost no regulations," said Sarah Eagan, Connecticut's child advocate.

Eagan said they don't see their office being in any conflict with families, who want to educate their children at home.

She said she is hoping to have an open dialogue with stakeholders on the matter.

"To discuss whether or not the state of Connecticut would benefit for a safety net who have been withdrawn from school, especially particularly vulnerable students,” she said.

Homeschool advocates said that can't happen until all of the documents supporting the findings in the report are released.

More on this story, including interviews with parents, will air starting at 5 p.m. on Channel 3.

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