CLAIRE BERNISH–Homeschooling your child in New York City could earn a visit from Child Protective Services for neglect — even if you’ve followed all procedures required by the public school system to withdraw from its programs.
Tanya Acevedo, as The Federalist reports, experienced firsthand the punitive bureaucracy in place, essentially deeming all homeschooling parents child abusers.
Acevedo withdrew her child from school this winter, filing all necessary paperwork required by the government. But that wasn’t enough to stave off a visit from CPS, who showed up at her residence unannounced to investigate allegations of “educational neglect.”
“After Tanya let them in,” the Federalist explains, “a CPS investigator insisted that they interview her child in private, and inspected their apartment, including a look inside Tanya’s refrigerator — standard practice for a home under investigation for ‘neglect.’ The officer left Tanya with stern instructions to produce documents and her child the next day at the CPS office.”
Acevedo wasted no time in contacting the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) for assistance with her case, and parsing out the New York Public School District’s mountain of red tape to see where she might have erred.
In an interview, Acevedo told HSLDA she had indeed filed all the necessary paperwork — even sending two required forms by certified mail, among other meticulous measures.
“She had followed all the applicable laws to withdraw her son from public schools and begin homeschooling,” the Federalist continues, but the “school district had not recorded the paperwork she’d filed, so her son began accruing ‘absences’ that eventually triggered the CPS investigation.”
Administrative ‘errors’ similar to Acevedo’s turned out to be strikingly common.
HSLDA vice president of litigation, Jim Mason, dove into records after being astonished by Acevedo’s case, and, as he puts it, “What I found appalled me.
“Family after family have found themselves in legal limbo because the central office simply cannot or will not follow the timelines in the regulation. More than one homeschooling family told me they had been turned over to CPS because of the office’s delayed handling of the homeschooling paperwork.
“The injustice against homeschooling families in New York City can no longer be tolerated. On December 5, HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York City public schools over their systematic mistreatment of homeschooling families. We are asking for money damages and for a court to order the New York City bureaucracy to simply follow New York’s homeschooling regulation.”
Mason found homeschooling families aren’t dealing with their own school districts, as regulations dictate, because New York City consolidated all five boroughs’ homeschool information into one office — an underfunded, understaffed office were lost paperwork is a routine occurrence.
Worse, the central office controls the attendance database, relating to homeschooling, for the entire city.
While Acevedo had informed both the central office and the school before withdrawing her child, administrative and bureaucratic obstacles veritably guaranteed the boy would remain technically enrolled and accruing absences with each passing day. A certain number of absences, whether legitimate or not, trigger a report to CPS, alerting to possible ‘educational neglect.’
The fact so many homeschooling families find themselves in Acevedo’s situation — a bloated and self-important government deems itself fitter to educate your kids than you — evinces the New York City system could be set up to derail as many people as possible.
Of course, by creating an onerous process to withdraw children from the government-approved education system adheres to long-held beliefs children taught in the home mature into anti-social, insecure, average achievers — stereotypes proven untrue, if not opposite, in recent years.
Whatever your opinion on homeschooling versus public education, the freedom to choose the method your child is taught should not be left to a government already so clearly biased and intent on taking you out of the equation.