JOINT STATEMENT OF CONNECTICUT HOMESCHOOL ORGANIZATIONS
June 6, 2018
It is with true disbelief and utter dismay that we announce today that the State’s Child Advocate, Sarah Eagan, appears to be attacking innocent homeschooling parents with a vengeance never before seen in this state.
The Child Advocate has invoked her shockingly broad authority to have “unfettered access” to the records of homeschoolers’, by issuing subpoenas to Public School Districts across the state to provide records of homeschoolers to her, or face consequences “under penalty of law”.
That is correct, the State’s Child Advocate has used her almost limitless powers to issue subpoenas to public schools to hand over documents about students who were withdrawn from public schools to be homeschooled “at an point during the past (3) years”. And that includes handing over to the Child Advocate the student’s name, age, grade and ethnicity and whether the student had an IEP”. She also wants the public schools to hand over other information about homeschoolers, including a “copy of the Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction , “any documentation related to subsequent portfolio review”; and “current enrollment status of each student being homeschooled”.
The question is: Why is she doing this?
Why is she doubling down on attacking the rights of homeschool parents when they had nothing to
do with the death of public school enrolled Matthew Tirado,
and when they have done absolutely nothing wrong?
This is yet another unwarranted intrusion into the rights and lives of law abiding parents.
One abundantly valid answer to that question is:
she is doubling down and scapegoating homeschoolers in order to
deflect attention away from the massive and horrid failures of
the Hartford Public School District, the State Department of Education, the
Department of Children and Families, the Juvenile Court, and her own agency,
which contributed to the very preventable death of Matthew Tirado.
What are the massive failures of those agencies that contributed to Matthew’s death? They were aware of abuse and neglect.
They failed him….
When Matthew’s mother repeatedly, over many years, was reported to DCF for suspected abuse and neglect;
When Matthew’s mother repeatedly, over many years, failed to bring him to school and caused him to be truant for
months at a time;
When there were reports from Matthew’s sister that her mother hit her and her brother;
When a school psychologist reported that Matthew had not been in school for a year;
When his Mother’s telephone was disconnected;
When DCF workers and Matthew’s own court appointed lawyer, had not seen him for months;
When his Mother failed to show up at five separate hearings after DCF finally, after years of knowing of the abuse and
neglect filed a complaint in court;
When DCF asked the court to “close the case” because they couldn’t get his Mother to show up in court; and
When the court, after holding only a 45 second hearing, agreed to close the case;
There was plenty that all of those involved had the authority to do, and could have done. They didn’t. They failed.
As a result, Matthew is dead.
Here is some of what they could have done but didn’t.
1. Any one of those agencies could have asked for police assistance to conduct a “welfare check” to see if Matthew was okay. A welfare check is otherwise known as an emergency exception to the warrant requirement. Acting as caretakers in the community, police are allowed to enter a home without a warrant to respond to a perceived emergency. (See DeMarco, 311 Conn. 510, 88 A.3d 491 (2014)). All of the agencies failed to do so.
3. The State Department of Education could have compelled the local Public School District to invoke a due process hearing, sought court permission to compel the District to do so, and otherwise could have ensured that all special education law was properly implemented. (See CGS §§10-4, 10-4a, 10-4b). The State Department of Education failed to do so.
4. The Department of Children and Families had reports of suspected neglect or abuse of the children as far back as 2010. DCF could have obtained permission to take the children out of the home for a 96 hour hold in order to physically, mentally, and emotionally evaluate Matthew and his sister. DCF could have petitioned the juvenile court for temporary custody of the children long before it did. DCF could have petitioned the court to compel the appearance of the Mother in court for hearings, or to terminate the parental rights of the children. (See CGS§§ 17a-101g, 17a-112, 17a-113.) DCF did none of those things.
5. The Juvenile Court could have ordered the DCF social workers and the attorney for the child to physically see Matthew and report to the court; on its own the court could have ordered an evaluation of the parent and the children; it could have issued an order of civil and/or criminal contempt against the Mother for failure to appear in court five times, had her arrested and jailed, and had the children placed in foster care; and it could have held more than a 45 second hearing into the issues before agreeing with DCF to just close the case. The Juvenile Court did none of those things. (See Wilson v. Cohen, 222 Conn. 591, 596 n.5, 610 A.2d 1177 (1992).
If any of these local or state agencies had taken any ONE of those actions, Matthew’s life could have been saved.
Each of these local and state agencies failures and incompetencies caused Matthew to die. His death was easily and wholly preventable.
Why, then, is the Child Advocate putting all her energy, with a vengeance, into subpoenaing records of homeschoolers, when homeschoolers had nothing to do with his death?
Why is she going after homeschoolers when neither Matthew nor his sister were hidden from the so-called “safety net” provided by the public school and by the abuse and neglect statutes already in existence?
Why does she want to prove what homeschoolers do or don’t do, when she is turning a very blind eye toward what the public school and all of these state agencies did or didn’t do that resulted in the very real death of a child?
Why is she ignoring all of the failures and incompetencies of these agencies that actually contributed to the death of a child?
With all of this “unfettered access”, investigative subpoena power, and truly expansive authority that she has, why on earth isn’t she using it to investigate those who could have saved Matthew’s life but didn’t?
Why does she seemingly have absolutely no interest in holding those people accountable for the death of a child?
It is truly shocking that the Child Advocate is utilizing all of the powers of her office in this most inappropriate manner.
It is more than shocking. It is outrageous. Every citizen in this state should be outraged.
How and when will she turn her attention to another group of citizens to deflect from any the wrongdoing of agency officials?
Who is next? When will she be held accountable?
One thing is for sure: homeschoolers will not be used as scapegoats for the failures, ineptitude, and wrongdoing of state agency officials, including the Child Advocate.
Respectfully submitted: National Home Education Legal Defense, LLC, (NHELD); Connecticut Homeschool Network, (CHN); and The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers, (TEACH).