M E M O R A N D U M TO: New Hampshire Home Education Community DATE: September 1, 1999 FROM: Elaine Rapp IN RE: RSA 193-A and Educational Neglect ===========================================================================It has come to my attention that there is some question regarding application of RSA 193-A in cases where educational neglect concerns may be raised by DCYF relative to homeschooling. For this reason, I have prepared the following summary of the HEAC events in 1993 surrounding the council's understanding of how DCYF (DCYS at the time) would approach home schooling families in the event educational neglect was an issue.
Mike Faiella and I were invited to attend a DCYS Community Conference held by the Manchester District Office on April 2, 1993. At that conference, we met and talked at some length with the director of the division, Lorrie L. Lutz. She indicated to us that she was quite knowledgeable about home education and was open to discussing our new law in relation to educational neglect as it might be confronted by the division.
Our concern centered on the fear that home education, as an alternative to school attendance and practiced in alternative lifestyles, might become the target of educational neglect by DCYS due to a lack of understanding about the home education law and the rights of parents to choose this alternative without the imposition of subjective opinions as to the validity of the program, methods used, or qualifications of the parents.
On April 13, 1993, we invited Ms. Lutz to a HEAC meeting. The minutes from our meeting contain the following notes:
"Ms. Lorrie Lutz joined the meeting: - She is a strong advocate of home schooling - very supportive. - She has found parents doing it usually have strong moral ideals. - If there is abuse, home schooling is not the issue - HS is in fact not the case. - Will walk through HS cases with us as they arise."On April 26, 1993, Ms Lutz wrote a memo to Judy Fillion at the Department of Education relative to her meeting with the HEAC. In part, the memo stated: "I have spoken at length with our Intake Unit, and we are very clear that Home Schooling, no way connotes educational neglect."
Ms. Lutz goes on to say, "When calls come into our Centralized Intake Unit indicating that children are not being educated and are home during the day, our Intake Unit calls to verify whether or not the child(ren) are certified as being home schooled. If they are, we stop any further inquiries. If they are not certified we then pursue the assessment with a concern of educational neglect."
By "certified" we understood that to mean that the family was home schooling under RSA 193-A. If the family was home schooling under the law and there was a question regarding the education taking place, RSA 193-A (and the DOE) would be the appropriate mechanism for assessing whether there was legitimate reason to suspect that the education did not meet the requirements of RSA 193-A.
RSA 193-A is a compulsory attendance law. In order to legally home school, parents must fulfill certain requirements regarding notification and evaluation information. There is a hearing process in the DOE when ther is "written and substantiated information"(1) that would lead one to believe that the education is not meeting those requirements. If the parents have not notified under RSA-193-A that a home education program has commenced, then children not attending school under those circumstances might be considered truant.
Ms. Lutz's memo included one other statement of importance. "Our Intake guidelines are currently in the process of being re-written with certain language clearly stating that Home Schooling in no way constitutes educational neglect as long as the parents have certified that they are Home Schooling."
We believed that this re-written version of the Intake guidelines would reflect clear language so that questions of educational neglect in home schooling situations under RSA 193-A would not be pursued by DCYF, but instead be referred to the DOE which has in place a hearing mechanism. I was never able to confirm that this re-written version was done, and I have never seen an intake sheet or intake report that shows DCYF personnel were indeed verifying home schooling under RSA 193-A before invoking a charge of educational neglect, and that upon verification, ceased a proceeding.
On April 27, 1993, I wrote to Ms. Lutz on behalf of the HEAC thanking her for attending our meeting on April 13. On May 2, 1993, I wrote Ms. Lutz a second letter, confirming our concern over developing some communication with DCYF (DCYS) so that should home education questions arise, there would be some mechanism through which the council and DCYF could clarify situations. In that letter I stated the following:
"...homeschoolers believe that the issue of home education is an education issue and could never be an issue for social services all by itself. In other words, no investigation by a social service agent would be appropriate on the grounds of concern that the family was home schooling and their children were not in school. This would not constitute sufficient grounds for suspecting neglect or abuse, and homeschoolers would oppose any attempt to investigate any family on such grounds...(homeschoolers) supported the new home education law in large part in order to identify and define the state and parental role in legally complying with the home education alternative while providing for our freedom to choose the best education alternative for our children."
In this letter, I also expressed concern over the use of CHINS petitions in school districts where there was a question of educational neglect or truancy before ascertaining if the family was home schooling under RSA 193-A; because this, too, would be inappropriate if the family was home schooling under the law.
On May 17, 1993, I received a letter back from Ms. Lutz in response to my letter of May 3, thanking me for my letter and indicating her willingness to work with us regarding further issues that might arise. She enclosed a copy of the memo dated April 26 which she had sent to Judy Fillion. This is the last written communication between the council and DCYF of which I am aware.
Home Education Advisory Council Minutes April 13, 1993. Memo from Lorrie Lutz (DCYS) to Judy Fillion (DOE) April 26, 1993. Letter from Elaine Rapp (HEAC) to Lorrie Lutz April 27, 1993 Letter from Elaine Rapp to Lorrie Lutz May 3, 1993. Letter from Lorrie Lutz to Elaine Rapp May 17, 1993.(1) RSA 193-A:7, I and II.
Home Education Advisory Council Meeting - Tuesday, April 13, 1993 Department of Education State Board Room 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM MinutesThose in attendance: Chair Elaine Rapp, George D'Orazio, Mike Faiella, Don Jones, Dennis Wyman, Judith Fillion and Leon Cote.
Unable to attend: Gerald Bourgeois, Kent Bicknell, Rob Drye, Joseph Rega and Clint Hanson.
Introduction: The minutes of the November, 1992 meeting were accepted with the following addition: -Ms. Lorrie Lutz, the Director of DCYF (Formerly DCYS) will be invited to the next HEAC meeting.
Two home educators are invited to "Team NH" (the conference Kent mentioned) on May 7 and 8, 1993.
Immunization records must go to the public school office. Is withholding acknowledgement the proper leverage to get them if necessary? We also need a definition of "enrolled student".
Special services generally not available to homeschooled child - again we need definition of "enrolled student".
New rules were passed out - please review in the next several days and give any comments to Judy Fillion.
Ms. Lorrie Lutz joined the meeting: - She is a strong advocate of home schooling - very supportive. - She has found parents doing it usually have strong moral ideals. - If there is abuse home schooling is not the issue - HS is a fact not the cause. - Will walk through HS cases with us as they arise.Does the council need more contact with the commissioner?
Should the council be a source of information, do surveys?
It is reported that Catholic non-public schools are reluctant to be participating agencies for HS programs. Elaine will draft an outreach letter for the next meeting.
The next meeting will be in the State Board Room on May 11, 1993 at 3:00 PM.
April 27, 1993 Ms. Lorrie L. Lutz, Director Division for Children and Youth Services Dear Ms. Lutz:On behalf of the home education advisory council, I would like to thank you for taking time to visit with us at our meeting held on April 13, 1993. One of the duties of the council as advisory to the commissioner of education is to encourage an understanding of home education. In turn, we need to understand how other issues affect home education, so that should questions or concerns arise, a forum exists for communication and information.
Thank you, too, for your efforts to clarify your intake guidelines regarding educational neglect under home education and in clearly stating that home education in itself is not grounds for educational neglect if the parents are certified as homeschooling.
Again, thank you for your time, and please feel free to call upon the council should the need arise.
Sincerely yours, Elaine D. Rapp Chairperson, HEAC
STATE OF NEW HAMPSPHIRE INTER-DEPARTMENT COMMUNICATION DATE: April 26, 1993 FROM: Lorrie Lutz (signed) AT: Division for Children Director and Youth Services TO: Judy Fillion Department of EducationI want to thank you for the opportunity to meet with the Home School Representatives and discuss the Division for Children, Youth and Families perspective on Home Schooling. I have spoken at length with our Intake Unit, and we are very clear that Home Schooling, no way connotes educational neglect. When calls come into our Centralized Intake Unit indicating that children are not being educated and are home during the day, our Intake Unit calls to verify whether or not the child(ren) are certified as being home schooled. If they are, we stop any further inquiries. If they are not certified then we pursue the assessment with a concern of educational neglect.
Our Intake Guidelines are currently in the process of being re-written with certain language clearly stating that Home Schooling in no way constitutes educational neglect as long as the parents have certified that they are Home Schooling.
I am hopeful that this information is helpful. I look forward to further dialogue.
LLL/gcs (on letterhead) STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE Harry H. Bird, M.D., Commissioner DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Lorrie L. Lutz, Director DIVISION FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES 603-271-4451 6 Hazen Drive Concord, NH 03301-6522 TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 May 17, 1993 Elaine D. Rapp 9 Mizoras Drive Nashua, N.H. 03062 Dear Ms. Rapp:I appreciate your letter dated May 3rd. I have attached for your information a letter to Dr. Fillion. I believe this answers some of the questions you posed. I am willing to discuss any further issues. If you would like to meet with myself and staff from our intake unit, I would ask that you call my assistant, Gayleen Smith at 271-4714.
Thank you. Sincerely yours, (signed) Lorrie L. Lutz Director LLL/mmc Attch. 9 Mizoras Drive Nashua, NH 03062 888-2099 May 3, 1993 Ms. Lorrie L. Lutz, Director Division for Children and Youth Services Dear Ms. Lutz:I enjoyed meeting you on Friday, April 2, at the Community Conference held by DCYS in Manchester. As you will recall, I and Mike Faiella were there as representatives from the home education advisory council. Our purpose in being there was to become more familiar with DCYS and the way it functions, and in particular to understand your vision for the division. We in turn are interested in opening up communication between us as representatives of the homeschooling community and the division should the need ever arise to clarify issues or situations.
It is interesting to know that you are quite familiar with homeschooling, and I hope that you will pass on your comments of admiration and support for such families to your supervisors and social workers in the division. I have worked many years with the commissioner of education and the department of education on varied homeschooling issues, some of them quite volatile, and have found that good communication and correct information is essential to people working well together. Therefore, should you ever feel I or Mike might be able to help on a home education question concerning our law or homeschooling perceptions about DCYS or related matters, please feel free to call on us.
I also appreciate your taking time to visit with the home education advisory council. As we discussed there, homeschoolers believe that the issue of home education is an education issue, and could never be an issue for social services all by itself. In other words, no investigation by a social service agent would be appropriate on the grounds of concern that the family was homeschooling and their children were not in school. This would not constitute sufficient grounds for suspecting neglect or abuse, and homeschoolers would oppose any attempt to investigate any family on such grounds. I appreciate your understanding of this delicate issue.
I recognize that others might put a different interpretation on the authority of the state to step into situations which might reflect alternative lifestyles, but homeschoolers believe that they are constitutionally protected from such intrusion. They supported the new home education law in part in order to identify and define the state and parental role in legally complying with the home education alternative while providing protection for our freedom to choose the best education alternative for our children.
In 1991 the first home education statute in New Hampshire went into effect. It acknowledges home education under compulsory school attendance law when certain notification and evaluation information is provided to the state, the local school district, or a private school. Under the requirements of the law, should that information or the child's educational progress as defined by the law be in question, there is a mechanism through which alleged noncompliance with the law's requirements (i.e. educational neglect) can be addressed.
It has come to my attention that currently in school districts where there is a question of educational neglect, a CHINS petition can be invoked by the superintendent which sends the issue to DCYS. Although in some cases this might be appropriate, cases where the issues deal with requirements under our home education statute should be referred to the department of education where they would go through the hearing process as defined by our law.
I have spoken to Judy Fillion about such a distinction of issues, and she indicated we could discuss it. I would like to talk with you about the possibility of distinguishing which cases might more appropriately be handled by the department of education. A good example of an issue that could be handled by the department of education would be when the superintendent is aware that the family has not filed under the law and wants to invoke truancy.
Families in our society today face many difficulties, and I believe that there are many instances in which social services provide needed and essential support to families. However, as I am sure you are aware, there is also a concern that this should not be a given authority, but that there must be clearly defined and identified reasons for any intrusion into the privacy of families. It is toward this end that I hope we can work together should the need arise.
Sincerely, Elaine D. Rapp