NEW YORK, NY – An image is making the rounds in a private mom’s group on social media after what appears to be a recommendation to faculty that parents who advise their children to refuse mask mandates can be referred to the Department of Social Services for Educational Neglect.
The image, which appears to be on a large screen during a recent meeting, lays out certain penalties, both, financial and disciplinary, that can be imposed for non-compliance by “parents, students, community members and vendors” regarding certain procedures and protocols related to COVID-19.
The lower portion of the image is marked Middle Country CSO (Central School District) and NYSED, for the New York State Education Department. It also appears to be dated August 30, 2021.
The Middle Country Central School District (MCCSD) covers approximately 16 square miles in the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County and includes the villages and hamlets of Centereach, Selden, parts of Lake Grove, Coram, Lake Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson Station and Farmingville.
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In addition to students receiving school suspension for up to five days (according to Section 3214 Section 3214. Student placement, suspensions, and transfers), the image suggests district enforcements could include a more dire consequence:
“Families who advise their children to refuse the mask mandate can be referred to the Department of Social Services for educational neglect.”
Child Protective Services (CPS) is a branch of social services that can begin a family court case by filing a neglect or abuse petition against the parent or person responsible for the child. When child welfare agencies remove a child from their home, the child’s life is changed, sometimes forever.
While the laws and procedural requirements for educational neglect vary from state to state, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau educational neglect is described as primarily the failure to ensure a child has the opportunity to attend school or be provided an adequate alternative.
“Educational neglect involves the failure of a parent or caregiver to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school or to provide appropriate homeschooling or needed special education training.”
However, in February 2021, New York State’s Education Department updated its guidance and definitions of educational neglect considering the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, including instructions on how and when to report it in their guide titled “Navigating K-12 Educational Challenges During the COVID-19 Pandemic: New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the NYS Education Department Joint Guidance for Educators and Child Welfare Workers”
“Educational neglect is when a child’s “physical, mental, or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired” due to the parent’s failure to exercise a minimum degree of care in providing the child with an adequate education (Family Ct Act §1012[f][i][A]).”
While that released document, in its entirety, fails to even mention the word “mask” within its eight pages of instructions, neglect would likely fall within the scope of either “exacerbating student attendance issues” (if appropriate home or online schooling is not used), or the scope of (i) (A) as referenced for failing to provide adequate supplies.
(f) “Neglected child” means a child less than eighteen years of age (i) whose physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as a result of the failure of his parent or other person legally responsible for his care to exercise a minimum degree of care; (A) in supplying the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter or education in accordance with the provisions of part one of article sixty-five of the education law, or medical, dental, optometrical or surgical care, though financially able to do so or offered financial or other reasonable means to do so.
According to Legal Match, a charge of educational neglect can have serious consequences, especially for a non-custodial parent where there is a child visitation or child custody rights dispute.
It appears the State of New York is adequately prepared to make such a charge.