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Whose Kids Are They?


Ohanian Comment: Does a local school district have the right to move in and make parents grade their kids? And test them? When does a social service worker become a government agent? And should the cops be involved? Last year a Vermont mother went to jail for refusing to submit an education plan for her homeschooled teenager.

Write to the superintendent of Waltham schools and ask what's going on: Susan Parella

parrellas@k12.waltham.ma.us



WALTHAM -- A legal battle over two home-schooled children exploded into a seven-hour standoff yesterday, when they refused to take a standardized test ordered by the Department of Social Services.

George Nicholas Bryant, 15, and Nyssa Bryant, 13, stood behind their parents, Kim and George, as police and DSS workers attempted to collect the children at 7:45 a.m. DSS demanded that the two complete a test to determine their educational level.

After a court order was issued by Framingham Juvenile Court around 1 p.m., the children were driven by their parents to a Waltham hotel.

Again, they refused to take the test.

"The court order said that the children must be here. It said nothing about taking the test," said George Bryant.

The second refusal came after an emotion-filled morning for the family, when DSS workers sternly demanded the Bryants comply with their orders.

"We have legal custody of the children and we will do with them as we see fit," DSS worker Susan Etscovitz told the Bryants in their Gale Street home. "They are minors and they do what we tell them to do."

Four police officers were also at the scene and attempted to coax the Bryants to listen to the DSS worker.

"We are simply here to prevent a breach of the peace," said Waltham Youth Officer Detective James Auld. "We will will not physically remove the children."

Yesterday's events are the continuation of a six-year legal battle between the family and Waltham Public Schools and the state.

The Bryants contend that the city and state do not have the legal right to force their children to take standardized tests, even though DSS workers have threatened to take their children from them.

"There have been threats all along. Most families fall to that bullying by the state and the legal system," said George Bryant.

"But this has been a six-year battle between the Waltham Public Schools and our family over who is in control of the education of our children," Bryant continued. "In the end the law of this state will protect us."

The Bryant children have never attended public school.

Both sides agree that the children are in no way abused mentally, physically, sexually or emotionally, but legal custody of the children was taken from Kim and George Bryant in December 2001. The children will remain under the legal custody of DSS until their 16th birthdays.

The parents have been ruled as unfit because they did not file educational plans or determine a grading system for the children, two criteria of Waltham Public School's home schooling policy.

"We do not believe in assessing our children based on a number or letter. Their education process is their personal intellectual property," said Bryant.

George Bryant said he was arrested six years ago, after not attending a meeting that the city contends he was summoned to. The meeting was called by the Waltham School Department for his failure to send his children to school.

"We want these issues aired in the open, in public. The school system and DSS have fought to keep this behind closed doors," said Bryant.

Superintendent of Schools Susan Parrella said she was unaware of yesterday's incident and that, currently the school department approves of the education plan filed by DSS for the Bryant children.

"An acceptable home school plan is in place right now," said Parrella. "I was not aware of any testing occurring today."

The Bryant children freely admit that they have no intention of taking a test.

"We don't want to take the test. We have taken them before and I don't think they are a fair assessment of what we know," said Nyssa Bryant. "And no one from DSS has ever asked us what we think."

Kenneth Pontes, area director of DSS, denied that workers have never talked to the children privately, but admitted that this type of case isn't often seen by his office.

"This is an unusual case. Different school systems require different regulations for home-schooled children. Waltham requires testing," said Pontes.

Pontes said that a possibility exists that the children will be removed from their home, but that was a last course of action.

"No one wants these children to be put in foster homes. The best course of action would for (the Bryants) to instruct the children to take the test," said Etscovitz.

The Bryant family is due in Framingham District Court this morning, to go before a juvenile court judge. According to DSS, this session will determine what their next course of action will be and if the children will be removed from the Bryants' home.

"These are our children and they have and always will be willing participants in their education," said Kim Bryant.


Here's another version of the story:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33077

Government agent, cops confront homeschoolers

Because the Bryants of Waltham, Mass., are perfectly comfortable with their kids' educational progress, they refuse to subject the children to mandatory testing demanded by their local school district a six-year stance that culminated in an early-morning standoff with government and law-enforcement officials outside their home.

According to a report in the MetroWest Daily News, social workers from the Department of Social Services and police officers confronted the family at 7:45 a.m. Thursday, demanding that George, 15, and Nyssa, 13, complete a standardized test.

As they have in the past, the children's parents, George and Kim Bryant, refused to allow their children to go, even though the government now has legal custody of the kids.

"There have been threats all along. Most families fall to that bullying by the state and the legal system," George Bryant Sr. told the paper. "But this has been a six-year battle between the Waltham Public Schools and our family over who is in control of the education of our children. In the end, the law of this state will protect us."

DSS worker Susan Etscovitz tried to use the fact that the Bryants technically don't have custody of their own children in her plea.

"We have legal custody of the children and we will do with them as we see fit," Etscovitz told the Bryants, according to the Daily News. "They are minors and they do what we tell them to do."

Four police officers were also at the scene and attempted to coax the Bryants into complying with the DSS worker.

One of the law-enforcement officers told the paper: "We will not physically remove the children."

According to the report, the Bryants contend that no government entity has the legal right to force their children to take standardized tests, even though DSS workers have threatened to take their children from them.

The Waltham Public School's homeschooling policy requires parents to file educational plans and develop a grading system for their home-educated children. The Bryants have refused to do so.

"We do not believe in assessing our children based on a number or letter. Their education process is their personal intellectual property," Bryant told the Daily News.

"We don't want to take the test. We have taken them before and I don't think they are a fair assessment of what we know," said Nyssa Bryant. "And no one from DSS has ever asked us what we think."

DSS made it clear it leaves open the option of removing the children from their home.

"No one wants these children to be put in foster homes. The best course of action would be for (the Bryants) to instruct the children to take the test," Etscovitz told the paper.



2003-06-14


MA


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