Parents Hopeful: No More Arrests for “Good Faith” Homeschooling
by Mike Donnelly • May 22, 2019
A school sub-committee in Worcester, Massachusetts gave initial approval to new homeschooling policies that parents hope could bring an end to the social services referrals, truancy prosecutions and even removal of children from their homes caused by the previous confusing policy.
In December 2018, HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of one family whose child was removed after the school system referred them to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) over paperwork issues. HSLDA also represented dozens more families whose homeschool plans were subjected to inconsistent and frustrating scrutiny by DCF.
The district’s new proposed homeschooling procedures states that school officials will not take “adverse action” against families who have filed homeschool plans in “good faith”—though it does remind families that school personnel are mandatory reporters and that they will make reports as required by law if they suspect abuse or neglect.
Maryagnes Reilly, Beth Fleming, Cathy Graham, and Kenza Dekar attend Monday’s school sub-committee meeting to call for fair treatment of homeschool families.
What the Law Says
HSLDA has long maintained both that the mere absence of a child from public school while homeschooling does not constitute abuse or neglect under Massachusetts law, and that school matters should be dealt with by the school and not DCF. However, Worcester had not changed its policy to reflect this reality despite HSLDA winning four cases in the last two years where school districts in Massachusetts wrongfully accused homeschooling families of neglect over paperwork.
I attended the latest school subcommittee meeting Monday evening where policy improvements drafted by the Worcester district’s attorney, Paige Tobin, were reviewed.
I was able to meet and speak with members of the committee and the superintendent, Maureen Binienda, a lifelong resident of Worcester and a career staff member of the public schools. She told me that she hoped that new procedures would lead to a better process.
The committee chairman, John Montfredo, said that he hopes the new procedures will lead to more trust and better relations with the homeschooling community. You can read the Worcester Telegram’s report here. The real test of the policy will be its successful implementation—but HSLDA is hopeful that last year’s contentious summer and fall will not be repeated.
HSLDA is here to make homeschooling possible for any family, free from undue government interference. The situation in Worcester is among the most distressing in Massachusetts in recent memory. Whether because of bureaucratic indifference or hostility, this issue and the work it took to start fixing it demonstrates that threats to freedom persist.
We need you to stand with us so that we can stand against threats like this. Will you join HSLDA today or make a special contribution to the HSLDA Freedom Fund so that we can always be ready to defend our freedom?
According to the Telegram, the policy must still must be approved by the full School Committee at a future meeting.