Thursday, August 31, 2006

Update on second grader's service dog

Yesterday, I had a post about a school that banned a second grader's service dog, and how many of the comments on the original article turned to homeschooling.

Well, this is how the story ends.

DOG DEBATE OVER - Scituate family to home-school child after schools balk at service dog

The Patriot Ledger

SCITUATE - The debate over whether an 8-year-old girl with a rare bone disease can bring her service dog to school has ended. That’s because Hailey Manduca won’t be attending second grade in Scituate schools when classes start next week.

Her parents, Cheryl and Richard Manduca, have decided to home-school Hailey, her mother said yesterday.

‘‘Home-schooling I think will be the safest - best for Hailey,’’ Cheryl Manduca said.

Hailey has osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare bone disease often called ‘‘brittle bone’’ disorder. She’s broken nearly 60 bones.

Doctors want her to use a service dog to help with balance and stairs.

Scituate schools had banned Hailey’s dog, named Independence, saying it barked and growled at students and teachers during training sessions last year.

The Manducas were in mediation with the schools this summer, and, earlier this month, they filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to try to force the schools to let the dog come to school.

Scituate Superintendent Mark Mason said the school department is working with the family on the curriculum and assessment methods that will be used at home with Hailey.

Does this mean she is a public school student at home?

Families are permitted to home-school children in cooperation with public schools. In Scituate, Assistant Superintendent James Kelleher, who is in charge of curriculum, handles the requests, works with families on curriculum and monitors students’ progress, Mason said.

Mason said he hopes the situation will spur the Legislature to review state law on the use of service dogs at schools to avoid a future contentious situation between a school and a family. He said school officials weren’t strictly opposed to the dog, but they needed to be sure having Independence at school was in the best interest of Hailey and the school.

‘‘We wish them the best and extend the opportunity to work with them, not only now, but throughout the year if they need advice,’’ he said.

Cheryl Manduca has a degree from Quincy College, and taught older preschoolers until she became disabled in 2001. Cheryl Manduca also has osteogenesis imperfecta, but Hailey’s symptoms are more sever.

Home-schooling will mean that Hailey won’t miss so much school because of doctor’s appointments and surgeries - she’s had nine surgeries to implant metal rods alongside her bones to make them more stable, Manduca said.

She said that the family already has a schedule for Hailey worked out for class time from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., including basics like math, reading and writing, all the way to art, music and gym class.

I wonder how long they will try to do "school at home" in contrast to "homeschooling?"

They plan to use curriculum and teaching material from Christian Liberty Academy, a home-school program based in Illinois. When Hailey graduates from eighth grade and twelfth grade, she can walk across the stage with all the other graduates, and will receive a diploma as opposed to a GED, Manduca said.

Does this mean she is a private schooler at home? Whose stage will she walk across? Christian Liberty Academy or the local government school?

‘‘We fully researched this before deciding this was what we wanted to do,’’ she said.

For now, the Manducas plan to keep their other two children in Scituate schools.

Manduca isn’t worried that Hailey will have less social contact with classmates.

She’ll continue in Girl Scouts and catechism through her church, and she’s on the waiting list for a chorus with other home-schooled kids in Worcester.

The Manducas also have found a Duxbury-based support group for home-school families. They planned to attend a meeting last night. The group gets together for field trips and other activities. Three other Scituate families who home-school their children belong to the group, Manduca said.

‘‘Hailey might be able to make some new friends tonight,’’ she said.

Diana Schoberg may be reached at .

Copyright 2006 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Tuesday, August 29, 2006

After some recent discussions about the term "homeschool," I was wondering is it still homeschooling if the child is considered as a student in a private school, but doing work at home?

We do use a private school for some course work, but our child is legally considered at student at our private school, Cate Academy. The private school that sends us DVD's of their classroom lectures does not issue grades, provide a transcript, or accreditation, but we could sign up for those services. We have no interest in those services, but I was wondering, when is a homeschooler not a homeschooler anymore?

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Spunky said...

I'm glad this story has at least a resolved ending. MA from what I understand is a very difficult state to homeschool in. I wish her all the best.

charity said...

"Scituate Superintendent Mark Mason said the school department is working with the family on the curriculum and assessment methods that will be used at home with Hailey."

My parents-in-law live in Massachusetts and we were thinking about moving there. My understanding from what I read of their homeschool law is that the local school is the agency with oversight and they have a say in curriculum and assessment method.

Needless to say, we will never be moving there.

If anyone is from there, I would be interested to hear if they are really this controlling. (I guess it would differ from district to district, though.)

At one point, they had home visits written in statute, until it was overturned by a court.

And I thought Vermont was bad!

Janine Cate said...

I wonder how the private school in Illinois factors in. If it's an accredited school, does it relieve the family from state interference?

I like California's homeschooling laws, or lack there of. Usually, the only time the state bothers someone about homeschooling is during a divorce/custody dispute.

christinemm said...

The media's reporting on this story also leaves me confused.

The fact that she is using a Christian curriculum leads me to think she is not officially enrolled in the public school.

However the part about getting a regular high school diploma is confusing.

I wonder if MassHope knows more about this? (They are the large MA state HS support organization which is Christian.)

This has red flags all over it with violations of the American's with Disabilities Act. A lawsuit against the school could be won, I am sure.

I can't believe all the negativity about this considering MA is considered such a liberal state, I'd assume they'd be very sympathetic to people with disabilities and medical conditions like that, and especially about a child and regarding public school.

ducamom said...

this is Hailey's mom even tho we do use Christian liberty academy , she is still part of the scituate school system. they do not help us out with any of the curriculum as they stated they were going to they were only making themselves sound good. I am having issues with the school with my other 2 children and thinking of homeschooling them as well. It has been a success for Hailey. She has made so many friends and I get support and have made friends with the parents as well from that support group and Indy has always been welcomed and never had a problem. she has a science and history fair every year and loves it.She attends jr co-op where she sits in a classroom on Fridays and does lessons with other Homeschoolers as well as field trips. This term she has done chorus and colonial life. this is the best thing i had ever done for her. I am so proud of her progress!

Janine Cate said...

Thanks for the update

Anonymous said...

I know this is a very old post, but I just thought I'd throw in my two cents: it's actually very easy to homeschool in Massachusetts. You work through the district instead of through the state, which is where I think the confusion about how much oversight there is comes from, but really all you have to do is send a "letter of intent" to the school board stating that you're of good moral character and that you intend to teach your kid the stuff you think they need to know. The school can ask for a single type of assessment once a year, but that's the only oversight that's allowed (and it's definitely not required).

The district can either approve or deny the application, but if they deny the burden is on them legally to prove that the child is not going to get an adequate education. Previous court cases have made this very difficult for districts to prove, and my understanding is that the bar is such that Social Services would probably be getting involved even if the child were in public school! I've never heard of anyone getting denied.