Buffalo, NY - In a case that highlights the drastic overreach of the state into the private lives of citizens, single mother Kiarre Harris was arrested and her children thrown into foster care after she was charged with “educational neglect” for officially removing them from public school and enrolling them in a homeschooling program.
It’s now been three weeks since Harris has seen her children after their legalized kidnapping by the state.
"I felt that the district was failing my children and that's when I made the decision to homeschool," Harris told WKBW 7.
According to Harris, she began researching homeschooling last November, after deciding the failing Buffalo Public School system wasn’t providing her children with the necessary tools for a successful academic future.
Harris says she was methodical in filing documents at Buffalo City Hall, following all the necessary procedures, and informing the school district of her intention to homeschool her children.
Harris provided the officially stamped documents to WKBW, which verified the school district had received them on December 7.
"I spoke directly to the homeschool coordinator and she told me from this point on my children were officially un-enrolled from school," said Harris.
Only a week after un-enrolling the children from public school, Child Protective Services (CPS) called Harris to inquire as to why her kids weren't in school.
"I told them that my kids were homeschooled now and that I could furnish the documents if they need to see them," Harris told WKBW.
Harris then went on with her regular homeschooling routine thinking everything was settled, but she was blissfully unaware of what was transpiring. Less than a month later Harris was confronted by police and CPS workers, who claimed they had a court order to take her children. When Harris told them they could not take her children she was arrested for obstruction of justice.
Buffalo Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. weighed in on the dubious actions of the state during a council meeting on Tuesday, noting that it is "utterly unacceptable" for a Buffalo mother to be arrested for "educational neglect" simply because she chose to homeschool her children.
"Someone, somewhere messed up, and that someone needs to face the music," Wingo said at a Buffalo Common Council meeting on Tuesday. "This does not pass the smell test. This looks bad."
"Did anyone from the school reach out to the mother? We don't know. It's very important for us to look at the details and get all of the details," Wingo said.
Councilman Wingo has called on Family Court to return the children to their mother's custody immediately, noting the absurd nature of taking children away from their mother’s care over a clerical error.
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The Buffalo Public School District told WKBW that it cannot comment on this case due to Federal Laws, but went on to note that in order for a parent to file for homeschooling they must have full custody of the children. This, of course, should be a non-issue as Harris says she's a single parent and has always had full custody until her kids were kidnapped by the state.
The reality is that persecution of homeschooling parents is common practice, and New York is infamous for attempting to criminalize homeschooling.
As we previously reported, NY resident Tanya Acevedo faced similar circumstances when she attempted to withdraw her children from public school and begin homeschooling. Acevedo withdrew her child from school this winter, filing all necessary paperwork required by the government. But that wasn’t enough to stave off a visit from CPS, who showed up at her residence unannounced to investigate allegations of “educational neglect.”
Strikingly similar to Harris’ case, Acevedo had filed all the necessary paperwork — even sending two required forms by certified mail, among other meticulous measures.
Acevedo promptly contacting the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) for assistance with her case, and parsing out the New York Public School District’s mountain of red tape to see if, or where, she might have erred.
HSLDA vice president of litigation, Jim Mason, dove into records after being stunned by what he saw in Acevedo’s case, and, as he puts it, “What I found appalled me.”
"Family after family have found themselves in legal limbo because the central office simply cannot or will not follow the timelines in the regulation. More than one homeschooling family told me they had been turned over to CPS because of the office’s delayed handling of the homeschooling paperwork," said Mason.
"The injustice against homeschooling families in New York City can no longer be tolerated. On December 5, HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York City public schools over their systematic mistreatment of homeschooling families. We are asking for money damages and for a court to order the New York City bureaucracy to simply follow New York’s homeschooling regulation."
Homeschooling families across America find themselves in similar situations to Harris and Acevedo — where a punitive and bloated government deems itself more fit to educate and even raise your children than you.
The ability for individuals to choose how they want their children educated is one of the primary functions of a free society. The fact that parents are being criminalized, and children are being kidnapped by the state for simply choosing to homeschool their kids, reveals a system that strives for omnipotent control over all aspects of an individual's life.
The fact that Harris’ children have not seen their mother in three weeks, since being kidnapped from her and forced into foster care, exposes the extreme disconnect between the state’s rhetoric about keeping kids safe – and the frightening reality of their actions in practice.
While we were researching this story, the Free Thought Project reviewed Kiarre Harris' Facebook profile. What we found was both amazing and ominous. Harris is an activist. As illustrated by her profile, she has been fighting the good fight for some time.
Unafraid of calling out the state for their hypocrisy and brutality, Harris was public about her views. Below are just a few of her posts that pose an alternate and ominous theory about why her children could've been taken. For her pro-freedom, anti-corruption views, she could've very well been targeted by the state.