Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Rare Event Indeed

Writers like me, who work for weekly papers, have an obvious advantage over writers for dailies: with a lighter story-load per week we can spend more time working on a given story. But there’s a disadvantage as well: it is very, very rare for a weekly paper to “scoop” a daily.

The story I wrote this week, about the state Department of Children and Families harassing parents who homeschool their children, is (I think) the first official media coverage the issue has received in Connecticut. But hopefully it won’t be the last.

Fun quote for the libertarians in the house:

[DCF spokesman] says DCF never forces itself on families, but tries to persuade them to let social workers look around the house and talk to everyone there. Then “if the answer is no, despite our best efforts to convince them it’s in their best interest, we walk away. … We get a court order.”

24 Comments:

Anonymous NoStar said...

Jennifer,
That was worth waiting for.

The schools are more interested in attendance than education. They collect State and Federal money per student on a per diem basis. Valid excuses don't help them collect, and nothing pisses off the school officials more than parents home-schooling their children.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Dave-o-ramA said...

Nice story, as usual!

3:41 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

and nothing pisses off the school officials more than parents home-schooling their children.

At least home schooling they don't have control over. Merry Land has a full blown program, because, well, they're the government, and they know better, so sit down and shut up and smile, dammit.

2:20 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Moose, are you saying that in Maryland, parents actually DO Need permission to homeschool? Ouch.

There was a lot of information I wanted to put in this story but had to leave out for space reasons. I want to talk to my boss about re-visiting the subject later. This is too big for one story in a single paper. Those poor kids.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

You can the propanganda for yourself, but it's not so much they need permission it's the supervision aspect. You can read the law if you want. Note that it requires one "consent" to the requirements, at least 15 days in advance. I don't know if it's "permission" if you're required to agree to something in advance, but if it walks like a duck.....

6:56 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Edit to "you can READ the propaganda.."

Doggone work keeps distracting me from commenting. Don't you hate that?

7:02 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

nothing pisses off the school officials more than parents home-schooling their children.

Well no, at least two things piss them off more: One is a student defying their "authority", and two is a parent defying their "authority". School officials are the original control freaks.
Interesting story - it sounds as though someone is abusing government power to further personal grievances. The insistence of annonymity by DCF for the complainant is quite suspicious and certainly convenient for the "system".

8:06 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Lunch break comment: I should add that when one buys a firearm in MD, you don't have approval, you are't given permission, you are simply...(wait for it)..."Not disapproved".

No shit, this is what's stamped on it. So, my above comments are somewhat jaded by this experience.

9:27 AM  
Blogger David said...

[DCF spokesman] says DCF never forces itself on families, but tries to persuade them to let social workers look around the house and talk to everyone there. Then “if the answer is no, despite our best efforts to convince them it’s in their best interest, we walk away. … We get a court order.”

I did like that part. Nothing says voluntary like "Do it or we'll fucking make you".

10:24 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Nothing says voluntary like "Do it or we'll fucking make you".

That's how the IRS made me a Libertarian.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

Nice article, Jennifer.

If the boss won't let you run a follow-up article, maybe he'll give you your own Blog off the main page (I notice there are currently five, already).

Not that you'd necessarily have time to do it justice, of course - your Blogging has clearly dropped off since you got a "real" job to keep you occupied (and hopefully, interested).

Even if he doesn't want to give you a "Byline 'Blog", maybe he'd be receptive to a catch-all "Article 'Blog", where people could comment upon (and get more info about) any recent article from your paper. Just make a new discussion-thread with the article's title each time you publish, put the comments-link at the bottom of the article that the home page already links to, anyway.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

BTW - I sent an eMail to your editor suggesting the Article 'Blog / Article Forum idea.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

NoStar (or anybody else):

Do people who home-school get access to that head-count per-diem, to help defray the costs?

Even if they don't under "normal" circumstances, if they are in a situation in which "vouchers" are supported, can they take the voucher money and apply it towards home schooling?

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Nostar said...

Anne,
Isn't it enough that the government allows these trouble makers to home-school?

Even if voucher money was available to homeschoolers, I am sure that most would turn it down. With the money would come even more over-site and meddling.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families publishes a document called LEAVING your child home alone...

It's basically a helpful page of guidelines for determining if your child is "ready" to be left unsupervised.

The first consideration listed is:

---------------------
His age. Experts believe a child should be at least 12 before he is left alone, and at least 15 before he can care for a younger brother or sister. These are the minimum ages. Not every child is ready then.
---------------------

Seems like reasonable enough advice, but it raises a question for me: At what age do girls (not to be sexist, just an observed stereotype) start taking babysitting jobs?

I'm terribly out-of-touch with contemporary child-rearing practices, but I seem to recall many babysitters younger than 15. If you can't be trusted with your own siblings, why should you be trustworthy with any other children?

3:33 PM  
Blogger christinemm said...

Jennifer thank you for writing the article.

As you know I just blogged on the topic and included links to your article.

To my knowledge yes, you are the first media coverage of this topic.

We homeschoolers have been discussing this for months and months.

I will answer Anne's question.

Homeschoolers do not get a single thing from the state or the town or the school district to help them homeschool. I have been asked by many people of the following "things" and the answer is no to all of these:
1. a break on state income tax as they are not using the school

2. a break on town/city property tax as the kids are not using the school

3. free advice and guidance from state or town school/education dept officials to help guide the parent as to how to homeschool

4. free materials, curriculum, books to use to homeschool

5. A voucher or some kind of rebate on taxes paid

Homeschoolers get nothing from any state, city or town agency. We don't "take" their time or energy or anything from them.

We pay our normal taxes as any other citizen would, income, sales tax, property tax, whatever.

How do homeschoolers do it?
We teach ourselves what the schools think kids should learn in grade X and also other educational theories which are different such as the "classical method". We decide what we think is best.

We spend out time teaching ourselves how to teach subject X, Y, and Z. After we know that we then learn how to teach that subject to whatever grade(s) of children we are teaching.

We read and research about options for materials, curriculum, books to use.

We shop for those materials and pay for them with our own money.

We also research outside classes, events, activities, sports "P.E." activities, co-op's with other HS parents and then we decide which we'll do, which we can afford, and which we have time for, then we sign our kids up for those things.

We also sometimes run our own "classes" in co-op experiences with other homeschoolers.

Also some participate in other things like the geography bee, the First Lego League competition and other things that some schooled kids do through school.

Back to DCF
I have heard some horror stories from parents of what happened to them.

My latest worry is that even "not substantiated" rulings still show on the parent's record for a background check. One mom who was investigated by DCF for "educational neglect" the minute she pulled her child out of school was told that in September when she renews her Girl Scout Leader status she was told she'll be denied. According to her the Girl Scouts policy is to not allow anyone to be a leader who has ever been investiagated, even if the claim was "not substantiated". I have not verified that policy myself.

However that was one issue that ATttorney Debi STevenson brought up with DCF is that in their policy, she asked that if a parent was found to be 'not substantiated' then it should disappear from their background check.

Jennifer thanks again for reporting on this.

3:39 PM  
Blogger christinemm said...

The CT DCF guidelines for leaving a child home alone are intersting because the Red Cross still gives babysitting courses. My friend tells me they say as long as the child is 12 they can take the course and pass it and are okay to babysit strangers. I wonder why the DCF is more strict and why they would not be in alignment with the Red Cross, who is most definately concerned with child and baby safety?

3:41 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

From Parent's Right to Know:

---------------------
• You have the right to request and receive thorough and understandable answers to any questions you may have about the Department’s involvement with your family.
...
• You have the right to request and receive information contained in the Department’s records about the investigation and findings concerning you and your child(ren). Access to the identity of the person(s) who reported suspected abuse or neglect may be restricted.
---------------------

Doesn't seem like these two "rights" (explicitly enumerated by DCF) are being respected in the cases you reported...

3:51 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

I'm terribly out-of-touch with contemporary child-rearing practices, but I seem to recall many babysitters younger than 15. If you can't be trusted with your own siblings, why should you be trustworthy with any other children?

My daughter had a right good little business at age 13. Has a mutual fund with just shy of $800 to show for it, one summer's worth of effort. Merry Land says you can leave a kid home at age 8, but they have to be 12 to supervise another kid, if I recall correctly.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous A moose said...

Homeschoolers do not get a single thing from the state or the town or the school district to help them homeschool.

Just for record purposes, this also applies to those of us who put their kids in nonpublic schools. According to their math, at $7k/kid, I'm saving the county $21k/yr. I'd like even 20% of that as a voucher, but no way such a Merry place would approve such a thing.

5:05 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

I'd like even 20% of that as a voucher, but no way such a Merry place would approve such a thing.

You mean that you would like to decide how best to spend your educational dollars instead of the State? Surely thou jesteth.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

You mean that you would like to decide how best to spend your educational dollars instead of the State? Surely thou jesteth.

I know, I know, but we can dream, can't we? I mean, I'd be happy with $0.20, they can keep the $0.80 (and I'd probably pay most of the cost of my kids to boot).

9:06 AM  
Anonymous A moose said...

Sidebar comment: Going back reading the original article, I looked at the "rant" letter where the guy goes off on motorcyle riders (harley types, loud pipes). He signs it:

Signed,

Confident enough with his masculinity not to ride a “hog”


But I think he stopped short of adding:
but not so confident that I'll actually attach my name to this...

Nothing to do with the thread, I just thought it was hilarious after such a diatribe he can't even put his name on it.

Ok, back to your regularly scheduled if somewhat intermittent of late Jennifer.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Thoreau said...

Stevenson says DCF will “rarely supply the person accused or their attorney with copies of the allegation. … Sometimes they’ll read the allegation slow enough that you can write it down.” And no looking at the evidence. “You don’t know who said what or what you’re defending against.”

This sounds like the "trials" being held at Gitmo.

Or Kafka.

5:41 PM  

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