Massachusetts Enforces Rules That Could Rob Parents of Their Children if They Cannot Access Virtual Learning Programs

The Massachusetts state Department of Children and Families (DCF) is harassing parents whose children are allegedly not participating in virtual learning programs set up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Em Quiles, a woman working a full-time job, was harassed by the DCF because her 7-year-old son was allegedly not participating in virtual school sessions. She said she asked Heard Street Discovery Academy in Worcester for assistance considering her circumstances, but they refused to do so.

“They didn’t offer any help,” she said.

Then the DCF called her up and accused her of neglect because her 7-year-old was reportedly missing assignments.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Quiles said.

A neglect complaint could result in Quiles having her children kidnapped from her by state agents, all because she lacked the financial means to supervise her child’s virtual education. Other low-income individuals, including minorities, are faced with similar predicaments, the Boston Globe has learned.

“It’s the exact wrong thing that the moment calls for,” said Michael Gregory, managing attorney with the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative of Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Harvard Law School.

Gregory noted that schools throughout Massachusetts are not “building bridges and building relationships” with parents undergoing an unprecedented amount of stress and hardship due to the pandemic, but rather are implementing “punitive measures” against them.

“There were so many kids with disabilities, language barriers … who were having trouble engaging in remote learning. You shouldn’t infer anything about a parent, simply because a child’s not showing up on Zoom,” Gregory said.

Dalene Basden, a family support specialist with the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, noted that two parents were reported to the DCF despite the fact that they could not receive alerts through Facebook and e-mail. They could have theoretically had their children kidnapped by state thugs because they could not afford internet access.

Worcester superintendent Maureen Binienda is denying any wrongdoing on behalf of the district and defends sicking state thugs on low-income parents who are having difficulty transitioning to online learning.

“One of our primary responsibilities was to ensure that every child in our district was safe, had access to food, and received appropriate care,” Binienda wrote in an email, adding that Quills story is “wholly and completely inaccurate.”

Quilles noted that DCF quickly determined that she was not a neglectful parent and dropped the complaint.

“They weren’t interested in working with parents,” said Quilles, who runs an organization for Latino empowerment. She is worried that other Latinos, including some who do not speak English, are going to have a much more difficult time fighting against the complaint than herself.

Leon Smith, executive director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice, has noted that schools are not making complaints to DCF “in the suburbs, where kids are blowing off their online schooling.”

“It’s happening in communities of color,” he added.

It seems that systemic racism is coming directly from the public schools, with the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to crack down on minority communities. Perhaps funds could be denied at the federal level to these institutions that fuel white privilege.

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