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Measure Prompted by Lack of Accountability Revealed in the Wake of the Tragic Death of 8-Year Old Irvington Girl

Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) today announced that she is putting forth legislation to regulate the home schooling of children in light of an investigation recently conducted by the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) into the tragic May death of eight-year old Christiana Glenn of Irvington.

The legislation, prompted by the lack of home schooling oversight revealed in DCF’s investigation, would require medical examinations and submission of student work portfolios for home-schooled children and prohibit children under the supervision of the Division of Youth and Family Services from being home-schooled.

“The tragic death of Christiana Glenn affirms the need for a reasonable home-schooling law in New Jersey,” said Vainieri Huttle. “I applaud the dedicated parents who home-school their children, but there must be a system of accountability. New Jersey has a legal responsibility to provide all of its youth with a ‘thorough and efficient education.’ The only way the state will know if it is meeting that obligation is to account for students who receive an alternative education at home.”

The legislation was prompted by information recently received from the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) as a follow-up to questions raised during a June hearing held by Vainieri Huttle’s Assembly committee.

In a letter received on Friday, DCF Commissioner Allison Blake detailed the review that took place following little Christiana’s death and outlined a series of recommendations for improvement, including the need for DCF to coordinate with the state Department of Education (DOE) to fully understand the requirements of home schooling in New Jersey to determine if the development of policies and protocols is warranted to increase child safety.

After researching the matter, Vainieri Huttle noted that the state has little-to-no requirements for home schooled children, particularly when it comes to accountability and oversight. Most notably, parents are not required to notify school districts of their intention to home school a child; the board of education does not have to approve the child’s home school curriculum; and a parent does not have to be certified.

“Not only does this pose serious concerns as to the level of education being received by these children, but it also eliminates the protection and oversight provided by school personnel,” added Vainieri Huttle. “Many cases of child abuse are often first detected by teachers and school staff who are used to being around these children on a daily basis. Unfortunately, little Christiana did not have the watchful eyes of school staff to help detect the abuse to which she was being subjected.”

The bill would also require the parent of a home-schooled child to provide certain information to the resident school district each school year, including documentation by September 1 of each year verifying that the child has undergone an annual medical examination.

The bill would also mandate that any child under the care, custody or supervision of the Division of Youth and Family Services, including a child placed in a reDest family home or in a kinship care home, may not be home-schooled unless the child’s home-schooling is approved by the division.

Under the bill, the parent would also be required to submit a letter by August 1 of each school year informing the district superintendent of the decision to home-school the child for that school year.

The letter must include the name and date of birth of the child, and the name of the person who will provide instruction to the child. The parent must also submit to the resident school district by June 30 of each school year a portfolio of student records and materials used to assess the reading, writing, and computational skills of the student.

Vainieri Huttle intends to introduce the legislation the next time the Assembly is in session.