National Home Education Legal Defense responded to a proposed piece of legislation in the CT General Assembly introduced by Sen. Toni Nathaniel Harp, 10th Dist. and Rep. Toni E. Walker, 93rd Dist.
The bill is Senate Bill 374.
"AN ACT REQUIRING BEHAVIORAL HEALTH ASSESSMENTS FOR CHILDREN.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
That section 10-206 of the general statutes be amended to require (1) each pupil enrolled in public school at grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 and each home-schooled child at ages 12, 14 and 17 to have a confidential behavioral health assessment, the results of which shall be disclosed only to the child's parent or guardian, and (2) each health care provider performing a child's behavioral health assessment to complete the appropriate form supplied by the State Board of Education verifying that the child has received the assessment.
Statement of Purpose:
To provide behavioral health assessments to children."
NHELD responded to the introduction of this legislation by writing:
NHELD does recommend that all parents should be aware, and keep track, of Proposed Senate Bill 374.
The bill does not specify anything about allowing any social services agency to become involved in your child's healthcare. It simply states that the fact that an assessment was done will be provided to the State Department of Education. While anything is always possible, right now it is only a proposed bill - that is, an idea that is written down. We don't know what the final language of the bill will look like, or whether it will be voted on in committee, or on the floor of the House or Senate. We need to be careful in how we approach anyone about this at this time.
Right now, it remains simply as a proposed bill, with only two sponsors: Rep. Toni Walker, and Senator Toni Harp. Before a bill becomes a law, after it is proposed, it must go through a screening process whereby legislative leaders determine whether it should be raised before the appropriate committee. In this case, the bill has been referred to the Public Health Committee. It is in the screening process at this point. The bill cannot go any further unless the appropriate committee acts upon it at one of its meetings. If the committee does not act on it, the bill dies. The first action the committee could take would be to place it on its agenda to determine if it will be scheduled for a public hearing. After the public hearing, the committee meets to vote on whether it will get approved to go further for action on the floor of the House and the Senate. If it gets a "joint favorable" vote in the committee, then the bill is placed on the calendar of the House and Senate and the leadership then determines when to call the bill for a vote on the floor of the House and Senate. At any point in this process, the bill also could be amended. If the leadership does not call the bill for a vote, the bill dies.
Again, right now, it is too soon to tell what will happen with this bill. NHELD is watching it and will update you as we find out more information. You also can, and should, watch what happens to it by going to the state's website, clicking on the legislative branch, and then type in the bill number in the appropriate box. The agenda for the committee meetings are posted 24 hours before they meet. The Public Health Committee meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The committee's public hearings also are scheduled on those days. The committee must post notice of the agenda for the public hearings five days in advance of the hearing. Keep on top of it, and watch other potentially harmful bills as well. Each of us must do our part to protect our freedom.
Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson
So pretty much we do not need to get our knickers in a twist about this right now - but we DO need to watch this!
If this goes to the Public Health Committee and they add more language to this and decide to present it for a public hearing, then by all means let's all show up and let them know what we think about mental health screening of homeschooled children.