RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SANDY HOOK ADVISORY COMMISSION

***PRESS RELEASE***

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

1/16/15

RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SANDY HOOK ADVISORY COMMISSION

While parents of the state continue to await the final draft of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s report, National Home Education Legal Defense, LLC, (NHELD), offers the following comment on the recommendations the Commission outlined at today’s meeting.

While we are pleased that the Commission now understands the important distinction between “homebound” instruction and “homeschooling”, unfortunately, the Commission remains dreadfully ignorant of existing federal and state Constitutional and statutory law regarding special education and parental rights.The Commission clarified that Adam Lanza, indeed, was not “homeschooled” as the Commission first indicated. The Commission acknowledged that he remained enrolled in the Newtown Public School District as a “homebound” special needs student.

Unfortunately, the Commission, nonetheless, indicated it will recommend that for any child enrolled in public school who has been identified as a special needs student and who has an existing individualized education program (IEPs) within the school, and whose parents subsequently withdraw them from
enrollment to homeschool, “the requirements of the IEP will continue while the child is being homeschooled.”

This recommendation is evidence of the Commission’s complete
misunderstanding, or misinterpretation, of its own charge and of the law.

The recommendation is completely outside the jurisdiction of the Commission to make. The Commission was not charged with making recommendations regarding children not enrolled in public school.

More importantly, what the Commission recommends directly conflicts with existing federal law. Under IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, which establishes the IEP procedure, parents have the right to consent or to refuse special education services provided by the public school. If the school district or parent cannot agree to the services, either party may seek a due process hearing for an impartial hearing officer to determine what services are appropriate. If either party disagrees with the hearing officer’s decision, the party may file an appeal in court and the judge will make the final determination as to what are the appropriate services. What the Commission proposes, i.e., to
mandate that the existing services listed in a child’s IEP be continued after the child withdraws from enrollment in the public school directly conflicts with IDEA and the due process procedure.

In addition, the Commission’s proposal to require that the services in the child’s IEP continue after withdrawal from enrollment in the public school flies in the face of existing United States Supreme Court law. In many cases, including the seminal case of Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Supreme Court has
emphasized that a state cannot compel any parent to accept a public school education. An IEP for a special needs child developed under IDEA is part of a public school education. Parents simply cannot be compelled to accept such a public school education. It is truly a shame that the Commission did not conduct more thorough research before making such an unenforceable
recommendation.

In fact, to date, there has been far too little emphasis on the rights of parents to consent to accepting the potentially laudable mental health services the Commission appears to be recommending, and far too little emphasis on why the Newtown Public School District did not, or could not, provide to Adam Lanza the appropriate services he appeared to be in desperate need of while he
remained enrolled in the public school district.

The parents of Connecticut eagerly await the final report of this Commission.

Contact: Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, stevenson@dgslawfirm.com, (860) 354-3590, cell: (203) 206-4282.

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