Press Release: Response to Final Recommendations of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission

NATIONAL HOME EDUCATION LEGAL DEFENSE, LLC
Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson
Founder
P.O. Box 704 Tel.: (860) 354-3590
Southbury, CT 06488 Cell: (203) 206-4282
stevenson@dgslawfirm.com

February 13, 2015

PRESS RELEASE

RESPONSE TO FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SANDY HOOK ADVISORY COMMISSION

National Home Education Legal Defense, (NHELD), is disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission continues to show sheer ignorance of law and disregard for parental rights in its final report on this most tragic event. The following are points to be made.

Federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Act, “IDEA” already provides a method to identify children in need. It is contained in the “Child Find” section of the statute, but that statute also allows for parental consent to evaluation, identification, and services. A State statute as recommended by the Commission would violate those federal due process rights.

Under IDEA, parents do not choose the members of the IEP team . Federal law sets forth the requirements for whom are members of the team. A State statute as recommended by the Commission would violate this section of the federal law.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a long line of cases, already has established that the government cannot compel a
parent to accept public school education for their child, and this would include public school special education. A State statute as recommended by the Commission to compel a parent of a homeschooled child to have an IEP approved by the local public school would violate existing Supreme Court law.

More importantly – Where are the facts about Adam Lanza’s public school records, including his IEP records?

Is the Commission still operating on another faulty premise – that Lanza was homeschooled? Why else would the Commission make recommendations about homeschooling when that had nothing to do with Lanza and this horrific crime?
Crucial questions still remain unanswered:
Lanza already was under the direction of the public school and its IEP – as a homebound student.
Why didn’t that prevent his actions?
What was in the IEP?
Did the public school fail him? Did the State Department of Education fail him?
Where are the school records showing what the IEP provided in terms of special education and support?
What kind of support services worked and didn’t work?
Did the Commission review any school records or the effectiveness of the academic instruction and special
education provided to Lanza at all?
Why aren’t those school records being released?
What is the state DOE going to do differently about monitoring the public schools, how they establish IEP
teams, and how those teams are supervised to determine they are complying with state and federal
statutes in providing appropriate special education to public school students?

Why is the Commission silent about that?

The Commission failed the public miserably in not demanding to review the public school records of Adam Lanza, including his IEP and his mental health records. The Commission also failed the public in not allowing the public, and legislators, to review those records before making any recommendations or changes to state law. How can any legislator make any change to any law without first obtaining all of the relevant facts and undertaking a thorough review of them? To do less, is simply a dereliction of duty.

We sincerely hope that our legislators will think before they act, review all the facts, not defy existing and longstanding federal law, and continue to uphold parental rights.

Additional thoughts relating to specific recommendations:

Recommendation:

“Commission recommends that each board of education in Connecticut ensure that all children with disabilities – including children with significant emotional, social and/or behavioral difficulties – who are in need of special education and related services in order to make adequate progress be
identified and evaluated in accordance with the IDEA.”

Comment:

This already is existing law under Child Find.
Is the Commission saying the schools have failed? But they recommend no sanction for the
failure, and no appropriate changes on the part of the schools for that failure?

Recommendation:

“Without access to supportive services, homeschooling for children with severe social and emotional challenges may not adequately address those children‘s needs or help them develop the skills they will need to function in society.”

Comment:

Parents already have access to those services – privately.
They can get better services and more individualized services, faster and more appropriately privately than they can in the public school.
If they need more, they can enroll the child in the public school, and they do.

More importantly, public schooling for children with severe challenges also often does not adequately address those children’s needs.
Those children may need a more structured environment such as residential placement –
But the state’s policy for years has been, and continues to be, to mainstream these children, and to shut
down residential facilities. In fact, there are no beds for these children – there are waiting lists for them.
Is this what happened to Lanza?
Where are the facts about whether a request was made for residential placement?
Where are the school records?
Where are his medical/mental health records?
Why haven’t they been released to the public?

Recommendation:

“Where parents elect to homeschool a child with an identified disability, the homeschooled child should have an individual education program (IEP) approved by the special education director of the Area Education Agency and access to special education services.”

Comment:

The public school district, (Area Education Agency) has no jurisdiction over a child who is not enrolled in the school district, nor should it, when as a matter of law the government cannot compel parents to have children receive a public school education, including special education. Therefore, it has no jurisdiction to approve an IEP.

What is the purpose of reporting other than to compel special education?

Recommendation:

“Currently, Connecticut law requires that parents who choose to educate their children at home or outside of the public school system be prepared to demonstrate ―that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.‖ Conn. Gen.Stat. § 10-184.”

Comment:

This is not true. It is a misinterpretation of existing law. Continues to show ignorance of the Commission, or intentional misinterpretation of the law by the DOE. That statute requires parents who are not instructing their child at home or who are not enrolling their child in the public school to be able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction.

Recommendation:

“Connecticut should therefore require that a parent providing homeschooling to a child with identified emotional, social and/or behavioral difficulties of a significant nature sufficient to require special education and related services file with the local superintendent on a regular basis (at least annually) progress reports prepared by an individualized education program team selected by the parent. The state should also consider requiring that a parent‘s obligations under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-184 encompass approval of the individualized education plan and adequate progress as documented in these reports.”

Comment:

There are a number of problems with this recommendation, including the fact that the Commission has
not defined what constitutes “difficulties of a significant nature”, but the following are of more
immediate significance:
Parents cannot select an IEP team under IDEA.
Filing of progress reports and approval by the public school district is the equivalent of compelling a
parent to have a child receive a public school education.
As a matter of law, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, this is not allowed.

IDEA – already provides child find but allows for parental consent to evaluation, identification, and services
A State statute would violate those federal due process rights.
Under IDEA, parents do not choose the members of the IEP team – are requirements. for who are
members of the team. Again, would violate federal law.
The government cannot compel parent to accept public school education, including special education
What is the purpose of reporting other than to compel special education?

The recommendations are built on a faulty premise and fallacy – that homeschooled children are socially
isolated.
They are not. In fact, they are more socialized than public school students.
They are in the real world socializing with more than just age peers for many more hours per week than
public school children are.
Public school children are socializing generally with only their age peers, the same ones, each day and
each year for twelve years.
That leads to social isolation within the public school – terms of cliques, bullying, social outcasts.
Has the Commission made recommendations to expand the real world socialization of public school
students?
Perhaps they should.

Where are the facts?
Still operating on another faulty premise – that Lanza was homeschooled?
Lanza was under an IEP – as a homebound student.
Did that prevent his actions?
Did the public school fail him?
Where are the school records showing what the IEP provided in terms of special education and support
services?
What kind of support services worked and didn’t work?
Did the Commission review any school records or the effectiveness of the academic instruction and
special education provided to Lanza?
Why aren’t those school records being released?
What is the state DOE going to do differently about monitoring the public schools, how they establish IEP teams, and how those teams are supervised to determine they are complying with state and federal statutes in providing appropriate special education to public school students?

Why is the Commission silent about that?

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