Watching the DCYF Special Committee

Over the weekend, a friend who is also a state representative on the DCYF special committee asked me if I have any information that might be helpful to their deliberations.

I shared some notes from HB 1650 (2018) that are relevant today as much they were several years ago. Here is what I shared with a few members of the committee.

This is why GSHE monitors many issues in the legislature and the Home Education Advisory Council (HEAC), and why we encourage our members to remain vigilant. Home education freedom is worth the time, energy, and effort.

Update: The committee met on March 25, 2024 and the video recording is available here. State Representative Erica Layon is the Chairwoman and may be reached at if you have something to share.

Dear Honorable Representatives Cushman, Kofalt, and Layon,

I have information that may be relevant to your current DCYF special committee for your consideration.

In 2018, I followed HB 1650 re removing education as required by law as a criterion for determining child neglect. I have extensive notes about the bill, including DCYF submissions to the House Children and Family Law Committee, and videos of the public hearing and executive session. Former Rep Kimberly Rice was chairman at the time.

HB 1650 continued public hearing part 1

HB 1650 continued public hearing part 2

HB 1650 exec session part 1

HB 1650 exec session part 2

HB 1650 exec session part 3

HB 1650 exec session part 4

HB 1650 exec session part 5

HB 1650 exec session part 6

The following are my notes about the public hearing and exec session that I published on my (old) website School Choice for NH as well as on Granite State Home Educators. Note that this was originally published in March 2018.

The director of DCYF was unable to attend, but sent in a letter in which he implies that only his agency is capable of handling educational-neglect concerns. That is false. SAUs are authorized to handle compulsory attendance concerns and may have truancy officers. SAUs are education professionals and are far more familiar with education laws, rules, and requirements. They also may file a Children in Need of Services (CHINS) request if needed; the bill does nothing to change that program or its availability to districts unable to resolve compliance problems. In a state DOE technical advisory effective July 2010, it specifically says “a truant officer or school official shall not file a petition alleging that the child is in need of services pursuant to RSA 169-D:2, II(a) until all steps in the school district’s intervention process under RSA 189:34, II have been followed.” In other words, SAUs and school officials are designed to be first-responders to education investigations before involving CHINS.

The advocacy director of Child and Family Services testified in opposition to the bill. He said DCYF reports have increased from 3000 in a three-month period to 5000, with roughly 5% include findings of educational neglect. Given this enormous work load and priority for protecting children’s physical welfare, it seems DCYF and CFS are overburdened and would benefit from shifting education-only issues to other agencies.

He also gave the impression that without DCYF no one would handle educational neglect concerns (video #1, mark 3:20). During questions, he reiterated the false information that DCYF is the only agency authorized to handle these issues (video #1, starting at 4:25) and created an extreme hypothetical example of parents taking opiates claiming to be homeschoolers. The CFS advocate also said that DCYF has the power, and would use it, to remove a child from the family and put him or her in foster care to force the youngster into the local district schools (video #1, mark 9:45). He said that DCYF and CFS make no distinction between educational neglect and other types of abuse and neglect.

Read that again, and let it sink in. It is particularly alarming when considered along with some representatives’ suggestion to have wellness checks on homeschoolers, a bill in the House Education Committee, HB 1263 (2018).

This is what I addressed in testimony:

In the May 2017 HEAC minutes, Chairman Amy Gall remarked, “A family with a Down syndrome child withdrew their child to homeschool because they were concerned with behaviors the child was learning at school. They were worried that they would be reported to DCYF because they are homeschooling their special needs child.”

The January 2017 HEAC minutes reports: A family with multiple special-needs children lost their housing, began homeschooling because one child was medically fragile, and then were reported to DCYF for educational neglect.

Although the CFS advocate stated that homeschoolers are not targeted, it is not an unfounded fear. A year ago, an article was published indicating New York City homeschoolers were systematically reported to Children Protective Services for educational neglect when they filed their intent to homeschool notices.

The executive session begins in video #2. During discussion it was apparent that the committee was unclear whether or not SAUs have the authority to investigate education concerns or if it should appropriately be assigned to DCYF. Many commented that SAUs have difficulty handling truancy issues they are charged to investigate. However; DCYF needs a major “overhaul” and has mishandled many cases of abuse and neglect. Some also incorrectly said that without DCYF handling education investigations, no authority would have the power to do so.

Some representatives claimed that although DCYF is currently charged with investigating educational neglect, they are not mandatory reporters; they said reporting is made to DCYF and uni-directional; that concerns are reported to them, but they cannot initiate reports. That is grossly inaccurate. In RSA 169-C:29, mandatory reporters of child abuse explicitly includes social workers and other child or foster care workers, not only teachers, school officials, doctors, law enforcement officers, and many more people in our communities.

To address these concerns, a friendly amendment #0783h was proposed by one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep Dan Itse. It added a study commission that would attempt to resolve how to better equip and clarify that districts handle cases re compulsory attendance concerns. Unfortunately, the vote was a 7 to 7 tie so it failed.

It is my opinion that HB 1650 (2018) was a simple bill to remove education as a component of neglect and responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). HB 1650 treated homeschool investigations the same as other educational cases which are handled by the state Department of Education and local school districts. Compliance with compulsory attendance applies to all children age 6 to 18, including homeschoolers. HB 1650 allowed DCYF to focus on higher priority investigations; it removed education-only investigations from DCYF which is poorly equipped or trained to evaluate education concerns. Instead, it placed responsibility in the hands of the state DOE and local districts through existing compulsory education and truancy statutes. Further, it placed homeschoolers on a level playing field with families who choose public or private schools. Finally, if a home-educating family is investigated for educational neglect, current home education statute, RSA 193-A, requires them to maintain the notification letters and acknowledgements from their Participating Agencies, reading logs, work samples, and annual assessments which provide evidence against such charges. This bill did not alter investigations that go beyond educational concerns. HB 1650 took away a big fear home-educating families face – that their children could be removed from their homes by DCYF simply because of paperwork errors or misunderstandings with education statutes. Homeschooling is not abuse and should not be treated as such.

Read more in Level the Playing Field for Homeschoolers and Homeschooling is Not Neglect.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact me if you have any questions or if I may be of assistance.


By Michelle Levell