As part of an initiative to prevent future school shootings, the Connecticut state government is acquiring new and controversial powers that could permit it to significantly curtail parents’ right to homeschool. Some background: After the tragic 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the state’s governor, Dannel P. Malloy, set up a committee to recommend changes to school security and other measures that could help prevent such horrifying crimes from occurring. The committee released an interim report in 2013 that called for obvious changes and created no stir.
But the latest report has added a new proposal. Because the shooter, Adam Lanza, was homeschooled during high school, the committee decided that children with “behavioral problems” who are homeschooled must be monitored much more closely by the state. Here’s the Connecticut Post with the substance of the proposal:
Under the proposal, home-schooled children with behavioral and emotional disabilities would have to have individualized education plans approved by the special education director of the local public school district. Allowing for the continued home-schooling of such children would be predicated on the individualized plans and “adequate progress” documented in mandatory annual reports.“Given the individuals involved in the tragedy that formed the basis of this commission, I think we have thought this issue out at some length and we believe it is very germane and that the actual facts leading up to this incident support the notion of the risk in not addressing social and emotional learning needs of children who may have significant needs in that area who are home-schooled,” said commissioner member Dr. Harold I. Schwartz, psychiatrist-in-chief at Hartford Hospital‘s Institute of Living.
Over at City Journal, Matthew Hennessey points out a few of the many troubling aspects of this proposal. Seizing upon this tragic incident to enact these regulations seems like the worst kind of opportunism, not only because, as Hennessey notes, Lanza attended public school for more years than he was home schooled, but also because Lanza’s situation was unique from first to last. More importantly, the category of “behavioral and emotional disabilities” is terrifyingly broad, and could easily come to include run-of-the-mill problems like ADHD. Given that every year we find new “behavioral disabilities” in need of “medical treatment,” this is a real risk.Parents should have the freedom to homeschool—not least because homeschooling families represent at least an attempt to think outside the box of the blue model idea of industrial education. But even if homeschooling wasn’t a boon to parents rightfully frustrated with our often-dismal public ed, we’d still decry this sort of bureaucratic opportunism and overreach.