Death of autistic teen sparks homeschool debate - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Death of autistic teen sparks homeschool debate

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Rally held to support homeschooling after the death of an autistic teen (WFSB) Rally held to support homeschooling after the death of an autistic teen (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Members of the homeschooling community rallied at the Connecticut capitol today for what they are calling unfair scrutiny from the state.

The state has been pushing for more oversight of children that are withdrawn from school after the tragic death of an autistic teen.

Parents say that the state is making an unfair connection from a disturbing case to what is actually happening in home classrooms. 

The state says that's not the target, but rather they are trying to come up with some plan from keeping another tragedy from happening again.

Parents, children and homeschooling advocates stood outside the capitol on Wednesday.

“I’ve had seven children and I’ve homeschooled all of them from birth on,” said Kelly Rowe of East Hampton.

They're upset with the state's Office of the Child Advocate after a report was released referencing the death of Mathew Tirado, and the push to follow up with obtaining records after a child is taken out of school.

“If it's not broke why do you fix it. This system of homeschooling has worked well for many years,” said Attorney Deborah Stevenson from the National Home Education Legal Defense.

Mathew was a non-verbal 17-year-old with autism found abused and starved in his Hartford home where locks were found on the refrigerator and cabinets.

His mother, Katiria Tirado took Mathew out of school and didn't allow DCF or other state agencies to check in.

She was sentenced to 11 years in prison for manslaughter on Tuesday.

“This isn't really a homeschool case, the child in question wasn't homeschooled,” said Cori Pierson, a homeschool parent in Windsor.

Mathew was just kept home, but his sister was withdrawn to be homeschooled in the final months of his life.

“We were obligated to check whether other children like Mathew’s sister who were similarly situated,” said Sarah Eagan from the Office of the Child Advocate.

The OCA report found that between 2013 and 2016, out of 380 students withdrawn to be homeschooled, 138 were involved with DCF.

It pointed out there is very little regulation after a student is withdrawn from school.  

“This office and this child advocate strongly supports their rights to direct the education of their children and to choose a home education if that's what works best for their family and their children,” said Eagan.

The concern is that Connecticut is one of a handful of states that has no framework for the permanent withdrawal of children from school, and there should be more oversight to keep something like what happened with the Tirado family from happening again.

“How can Connecticut, like so many other states before it, establish a safe net to prevent the misuse the pretext of homeschooling to be used as a guise or subterfuge by a parent who has no intention of homeschooling their child but rather seeking to remove that child from public view,” said Egan.

The report didn't just focus on the withdrawal of students, but also the faults of multiple state agencies in the Tirado case.

Eagan says that she is hoping that open dialog continues with homeschooling families.

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