The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, convened by Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-WFP), says it is recommending tighter control of homeschooling families in the state to prevent another Newtown shooting.
According to the Connecticut Post, the commission states, “[T]ighter scrutiny of homeschoolers may be needed to prevent an incident such as the December 2012 slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.”
The Post reports that the murders were carried out by Adam Lanza, “a disturbed 20-year-old who had been homeschooled by his mother, Nancy Lanza, whom he also shot to death on the morning of his murder spree.”
Despite the commission’s sense that the Newtown shooting translates into a need to have greater control over homeschoolers who might have behavioral issues, CT News Junkie reports that Dr. Susan Schmeiser, a professor of mental health law at the University of Connecticut Law School, stressed that a diagnosis of mental illness alone makes a “very weak predictor” of violence.
In fact, Lanza, according to a variety of reports, experienced most of his education in public schools.
A report released in November of 2013 by the Office of the State’s Attorney provides the following information regarding Lanza and his education background:
The shooter went through the Newtown public school system, though part of seventh grade and part of eighth grade were done at St. Rose of Lima School in Newtown.
While the shooter did attend SHES [Sandy Hook Elementary School] from 1998 to 2003, the first through fifth grade, he was never assigned to the classrooms where the shootings occurred. The shooter went for walks with his family around and near SHES after he had gotten out of the school. The shooter indicated that he loved the school and liked to go there.
According to some, the shooter was more social when he first moved to Connecticut and was younger. He would attend playgroups and parties. The early school years have him portrayed as a nice kid, though sort of withdrawn. He loved music and played saxophone.
As he got older his condition seemed to worsen, he became more of a loner. As the shooter got into the higher grades of middle school, he did not like noise and confusion and began to have issues when he had to walk to different classes. As a result, in high school, the shooter was homeschooled for a period of time. Though not in a mainstream setting, he could sit through a quiet lecture. The mother drove the shooter where he needed to go. He did not want to go to events with crowds.
He attended Newtown High School (NHS) with a combination of home schooling, tutoring and classes at NHS and Western Connecticut State University (WCSU). At NHS he was considered a special education student.
Having enough credits, the shooter graduated from NHS in 2009. He continued to take classes at WCSU after high school graduation.
ABC News also reported that, according to Lanza’s former classmates, “Adam had attended the local high school at least through part of 10th grade.”
Local Connecticut NBC News provided the following information regarding Lanza’s education history in April of 2013:
The Western Connecticut State University paperwork, released Tuesday, outline Lanza’s attempts, after completing his high school credits early, to continue his education.
In May 2008, just after his 16th birthday, Lanza took an algebra placement exam, saying in his background questionnaire that he did not want to indicate his gender or anything about his background. He scored a 95.9.
That summer, Lanza took two computer science classes, earning an A and an A-minus, the documents show. He followed up in the fall with another computer science class, which he withdrew from, and a philosophy class titled “Introduction to Ethical Theory,” in which he earned a C.
Lanza began the spring 2009 semester with classes in German and American history, but apparently dropped his studies soon afterward.
Additionally, Hispanic publication Voxxi reports the following about Lanza in December of 2012:
He took honors classes at his high school, including English and math. And in a time where most teens are avid users of social media, Adam Lanza had no Twitter or Facebook account. He didn’t even appear in his high school’s class of 2010 yearbook. In the space where his photo would have appeared, read “Camera Shy.” His mother later took him out of the public school system and homeschooled him.
“Adam Lanza belonged to a technology club at Newtown High School that held “LAN parties”–short for local area network–in which students would gather at a member’s home, hook up their computers into a small network and play games,” reported the Huffington Post several days after the shooting. “Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School, and several local news clippings from recent years mention his name among the school’s honor roll students.”
Under the Connecticut Children’s Behavioral Health Plan draft proposal, homeschooled children with behavioral and emotional disabilities would be required to have individualized education plans approved by the special education director of the local public school district. Continued homeschooling of these children would only be approved if the students were documented as having made “adequate progress” in their plans as part of mandatory annual reports to the special education directors in their public school districts.
The plan also states as a goal, “All children will receive age appropriate periodic standardized screening for developmental and behavioral concerns as part of a comprehensive system for screening, assessment, and referral for services.“
In its efforts to boost collection of data on children, the commission’s plan calls for a Date-Driven Accountability system and states:
Finally, data are not routinely made available to all stakeholders including members of the public, for the purposes of accountability and transparency.
Across multiple agencies and programs, rich and potentially useful data is being collected but much of the data is not being adequately utilized. There must be adequate capacity either internally or through contractors to manage, analyze and report the data to make critical and necessary data-driven decisions and programming. In addition, employing rigorous quality assurance protocols based on data will ensure programs are responding to the needs of youth and routinely monitoring and improving the quality of care. Monitoring process (i.e. information and characteristics about the services provided) and outcome (i.e. impact of the services provided) data can identify gaps in access and quality of care and provider training needs, including racial or economic disparities in access or outcomes. Ultimately a comprehensive data management system with routine data mining and strategic analyses can be transformational in ensuring that adequate and quality mental health services are provided to all youth.
The commission states it uses a “framework” from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the same federal advisory organization that provided the Obama administration with considerable medical “cover” for decision-making regarding Obamacare, and that promoted a tax on medical care to pay for improvements to public health services in the country.
According to the commission’s proposal:
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) framework aligns services and resources along a continuum that includes universal services for all children to promote optimal social and emotional development; selective services (e.g., early identification, early intervention) for children at high risk for developing a behavioral health condition; and indicated services for treating those with serious and complex disorders. The continuum of care is used to organize the planning and implementation of a system that will meet the needs of all youth and their families.
“Continuation of homeschooling should be contingent upon approval of [individualized education plans] and adequate progress as documented” in progress reports, Schmeiser said in a summary of the proposal, according to CT News Junkie.
Similarly, commission member Dr. Harold I. Schwartz, psychiatrist-in-chief at Hartford Hospital‘s Institute of Living, said the following regarding the proposal:
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.
Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, the commission’s chairman, however, said the proposal “sounds controversial.”
While she supported the proposal, Patricia Keavney-Maruca, a member of the state Board of Education, said there could be some pushback from parents of homeschooled children against the proposal. “It may be hard to implement because parents may want to get their back up and say, ‘You can’t make me do that if I’m homeschooling,'” she said.