In May, Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) was invited to participate on a congressional task force initiated by Congressman Donald McEachin of Henrico. The purpose of the task force was to find a solution to complaints from parents regarding the unfair treatment and harsh discipline of African-American and students with special-needs in Richmond City Schools.
Congressional Task Force
An unusually high number of elementary and high school African-American and special-needs students with behavioral issues are being suspended or expelled from schools across the nation. Instead of handling disciplinary issues within the schools, students who exhibit disruptive behaviors are often turned over to law-enforcement officers. Once they enter the criminal justice system, they tend to drop out of school. Without an education and unable to get a job because of a felony record, they get into more trouble and enter the prison system. This tragic spiral is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Rep. McEachin created a task force from his fourth congressional district to identify and find practical solutions to this problem. The task force is comprised of community volunteers, educational professionals, administrators, attorneys, parents, pediatricians, and child advocates—including HEAV legislative team member Ann Hoopsick.
“The disparate rates of suspensions of students of color and special-needs students are unacceptable,” Rep. McEachin said. “The problem is egregious and needs to be addressed now.”
After gathering information, the task force and Rep. McEachin hosted a free forum for parents, “Know Your Rights: Parent Power,” at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in August. The forum included workshops, a panel discussion, and opportunities for parents to ask questions and gather information in the vendor hall from community advocates.
Know Your Rights: Parent Power
HEAV became involved when the congressman’s staff learned that HEAV works with families who have left government schools for various reasons, including dissatisfaction with special-needs services. They felt we could bring additional insight to the discussion.
While it is not HEAV’s purpose to reform government education, we do offer encouragement and resources to parents who are looking for a solution outside the government educational system. Our participation in this task force as an opportunity to reach out to the inner-city community with information about a successful, alternative form of education.
Having a place at the table also gives us clear and up-to-date information about government programs that could impact homeschoolers, including an awareness of services that may or may not be available to homeschooling families.
HEAV provided an information table hosted by HEAV homeschool advocates Ann and Dave Hoopsick and Myra and Titus Hayes. They communicated one-on-one with interested parents, provided free homeschool handouts, and connected with other community service providers. HEAV’s goal was to reach out to the inner-city community and share information about parent’s rights and the benefits of parent-controlled education—true parent power.
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