Thursday, November 29, 2007
I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried! I'm still shaking my head over this one. But, hey, leave those public schools to their antics and they will eventually implode and there will be no one left who will want to attend them.
Great story by Bob Unruh of World Net Daily about a public school's 'gender-bender' cross-dressing day in Iowa schools. The event caused many parents to pull their children out and place them into homeschooling.
These schools deserve the Dork Award.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Jump into the ongoing conversation at this Vermont homeschooling chat site. The discussion can get heated at times but that's half the fun. The other half of the fun is from the airing of what's on the minds of those who participate here, even if others don't like what they're reading. Homeschooling isn't just about sharing recipes and deciding where to take a field trip.
Newbies to this site tend to wimp out early or whine to the moderator. However, this site is monitored by some of the strongest allies you'll ever have when it comes to your God-given, parental and constitutional rights. Many of us have been in the trenches for over 20 years and have learned that you can never let your guard down when it comes to maintaining our freedoms. We've learned that school officials can never be trusted to tell the truth or to follow the laws. So what if some of the posters are straightforward and perceived as intimidating. We've earned our stripes and someday the newbies will too.
Hey, it's known as free speech so if you can't take the grit you're free to walk away until you grow a backbone.
Official website for The Montessori Foundation.
The Montessori Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of Montessori education in the United States and abroad.
The mission of the Montessori Foundation is:
to nurture, inspire, and support the development of strong, successful Montessori schools around the world, and to help to build an international Montessori community of joyful, loving young people and adults, working together to build a world in which kindness, compassion, sanity, and peace can finally blossom.
Official website for Clonlara School co-founded by Pat Montgomery.
Read Pat's biography here:
Author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How To Quit School And Get A Real Life And Education.
Also, great information on her Not Back To School Camp (one is held in Vermont).
The Education Revolution
Website for AERO: The Alternative Education Resource Organization
The Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to advance learner-centered approaches to education. AERO is considered by many to be the primary hub of communications and support for educational alternatives around the world.
The is the link to the Vermont Association of Home Educators (VAHE) message board. Feel free to jump into the conversation. I've been know to leave a few comments now and again.
Linda Dobson's News Watch column from Home Education Magazine March/April 1997.
Glare Of The Spotlight
"...One might naturally wonder, then, what motivates a fellow homeschooler to place a damning phone call to the superintendent especially when it's not part of the job description?"
The person who placed the phone call was none other than Natalie Casco, former home study consultant for the VT DOE.
Read on to: ...And Vermont. Casco finally gets her 15 minutes of fame. The reason for her telephone call to the superintendent was because of her jealousy. As a Home Education Advocate here in Vermont I was the one getting invited to speak at conferences and being interviewed on radio and TV, not her.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Fox News interview of Home Education Advocate Cindy Wade during the Karen Maple case. Ms. Maple was exonerated by the Vermont Supreme Court. No apology was forth coming from her local public school or the Vermont Department of Education for making her life miserable for more than three long years.
Interesting Vermont court cases concerning homeschooling. Read how some families were railroaded all the way to the Supreme Court by unscrupulous state and public school officials. Did I forget to mention incompetent lawyers?!
Homeschool Central...All The Resources You Need! (their words, not mine) but still a wealth of information. The net has made homeschooling easier with so much information but remember you still need to sift through it and only take what you need or what is helpful.
Public schools no place for teacher's kids
by George Archibald THE WASHINGTON TIMES
More than 25 percent of public school teachers in Washington and Baltimore send their children to private schools, a new study reports.
Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools.
In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools....
This is a hard hitting website where the publisher doesn't hesitate to express his/her views about forced public schooling and homeschooling. Some great reading even if you won't agree with some of it.
New York state (our next door neighbor) from their Education Department:
Seventeen Schools Named As "Persistently Dangerous" Under NCLB, Ten Schools Placed on "Watch List"...
Protection of Pupil Rights (Hatch Amendment)
"Why It Is So Important To Check Your Children's Permanent School Records Regularly...
Every parent in the United States has the right and responsibility to make decisions about and to direct the education that their children receive from government schools. This right is detailed in the General Provisions of the Education Act of 1983 (as amended), specifically parental rights to direct and manage the course of their children's education is detailed in a section known as the "Hatch Amendment" to the Education Act..."
This site is about the Hatch Amendment and will help to empower parents.
The deaths of these children were so unnecessary and heart breaking. The next time a teacher in a public or private school suggests a child be tested for ADD or ADHD show them this information. Then complain to that teacher's superior and campaign to have that incompetent teacher fired!
If you still have your child in public school this letter is highly recommended to maintain your rights as parent. Sign and place a copy of this letter in your child's public school file.
January 27, 2003
Secretary Charles P. Smith
103 South Main Street
Waterbury, Vermont 05671
Dear Secretary Smith,
My name is Patricia O'Dell. I am married to Raymond O'Dell. Ray has been stepfather to my three oldest children for almost ten years. He is my youngest daughter's biological father. On September 13, 2002 SRS personnel, aided by State Police, took 3 of my children from my mother's property at 364 Rocky Lane, Bennington while we were visiting my sick mother. My son, Andrew (15) was not at his grandmother's home at the time so the Family Court labeled him a fugitive from justice.
According to documents SRS is alleging 'educational neglect' but they and the Department of Education cannot define what that means. I homeschool my children and have for the past four years. If you check the records at the DOE you will find that I sent in an enrollment notification for all but the 2002-2003 school year because the DOE told me my standards were too high and I could no longer enroll in their home study program.
SRS told me I cannot put my children into a Christian school. We have an account at A Teacher's Closet in Rutland that was set up to assist us with our homeschooling. We use book bags filled with homeschooling supplies whenever we travel or go camping. The foster homes discouraged our children from using their homeschooling materials. I stopped giving these materials to my children because the foster homes would lose them or destroy them.
When my 3 daughters, Samantha (14), Angela (11) and Elizabeth (8), were first taken and put into foster homes I was told I could only have 'supervised' visits with them on a very limited basis. This concerned me because I could no longer see to the safety and Christian education of my children. I also did not know the people who my children were now living with. Case worker Athena Boulger told us we could not cry or hug each other at these supervised visits. My daughters were told they would not be allowed to see me if they cried or if they told me what it was like in the foster homes.
As soon as the visits began my children told me what it was like in these foster homes. At first, Angela and Elizabeth were placed with a woman named June Carroll at 108 Barber St. in Bennington. Because of Carroll's harsh treatment my daughters ran away on several occasions leaving them vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. They told me Carroll's husband would walk around the house in his underwear and wouldn't let the girls close their bedroom door so they couldn't see him. Carroll would take them to bingo and make them sit and wait until late at night. Carroll left them alone outside a beauty shop one day (September 21, 2002) while she had her hair done. Carroll slapped them for touching things and punished them by withholding food.
On October 3, 2002 Angela and Elizabeth were taken from the Carroll home and placed in two other homes. Angela went to live with Paula Mears at 9 Frost Road, Bennington and Elizabeth went to live with Deborah Burke at 2292 Rt 7, Pownal. After that things went from bad to worse. Samantha told me these foster parents would get together for secret meetings to make sure everyone had their stories straight. Samantha was taken to some of these meetings. On one occasion both Angela and Elizabeth ran away and were chased to a hospital parking lot where Burke pursued Elizabeth who was crawling under the parked cars. Elizabeth could have been run over and killed!
On October 27, 2002 Angela and Elizabeth were staying together at the Mears' home and sometime in the morning they ran away. They eventually called me and I went to get them. I was horrified to find out that Elizabeth had a bruise on her left hip which she told me was caused by one of the four boys in her foster home. Elizabeth told me this boy 'drags' her in order to deliberately hurt her. This is not the first time. I saw a mark on Elizabeth's upper right shoulder about a week prior to this at one of our supervised visits in the SRS office. I also witnessed first hand one of these foster boys dragging Elizabeth from the SRS office after a supervised visit . I had to intervene in order to protect her. Angela told me she was abused by the foster father in the Mears' home. She was tossed onto a bed when she tried to stop the foster father from hitting another foster child with a belt.
As mother to both Elizabeth and Angela I could not take my children back to those foster homes so I decided to take them to my friend's house in E. Wallingford. Her name is Cindy Wade. Cindy talked to both my daughters in person and she took photos of the bruise on Elizabeth's hip. That night we went to the Weston Priory and begged for sanctuary and political asylum from the Vermont state government.
In the first month of supervised visits my daughter Samantha told me that her foster mother, Michelle Angell, was allowing a young boy named Timothy C. to call her and see her. I know this boy from before and I was furious when I found out this was happening. This boy had been abusive toward Samantha in the past leaving bruises on her. I told Athena Boulger NOT to allow this boy anywhere near Samantha but she refused to listen to me. In fact, Athena was encouraging these visits between Samantha and Timothy in the hopes that he would be able to get Samantha to tell him where her brother Andrew was. Athena wanted Timothy to get this information for her.
During the weeks that Samantha has been in state custody she has been allowed and encouraged by Michelle and Athena to go with boys as old as 18 or 19, unsupervised in vehicles. She has also been allowed by these women to stay over in the homes of people I know nothing about. Samantha called me from a motel room in December once where she was left alone with two babies and expected to watch them. She called me because she didn't know what to do with them.
In a supervised visit on November 8, 2002 my daughter Elizabeth did not show up and even Athena seemed surprised by this. Athena could not track down Elizabeth or the foster mother that day. Even more troubling about this visit was the fact that Samantha was acting very different. Samantha climbed onto my lap and she cried for almost the whole visit. I kept hearing from family members and others that Samantha is being exposed to drugs, smoking and all kinds of boys are making advances on her.
My daughter, Samantha, is a Christian homeschooler. She has not been in public school for nearly four years since she was in 5th grade. She has been placed into an environment she is not equipped to handle and I have no way of protecting her. A teacher told her she cannot read her Bible in school, even on her own time, and made her put it away.
On November 10, 2002 my son Andrew was captured by SRS and placed into a detention center for nearly a week. He was so upset over his treatment that he vomited his food. I was not allowed to visit him there and take care of him. Eventually Andrew was place with Barbara Newton in Bennington.
In late December Andrew came to a visit with a rash on his legs. He told me Barbara deliberately gave him a wool blanket to sleep with after he told her that he was allergic to wool. When I confronted Athena with this information she informed Barbara about my concern. Barbara informed Athena that if I wanted Andrew to have a different blanket that I'd have to bring him one. Barbara said she couldn't afford to buy more blankets. Andrew told me Barbara is a chain smoker in the home and can afford cigarettes though. In early January I bought a blanket at K-Mart and a comforter at the Salvation Army for Andrew and took them to my next visit to give to Andrew. Samantha's foster mother saw me do this.
Andrew also told me Elizabeth is left alone outside in a cold car sometimes when Burke returns a retarded respite boy to Newton's house in the evenings. Elizabeth is left in the car because Newton has made it very clear she won't allow Andrew to see his sister as a form of punishment, so Elizabeth isn't allowed into her house where it is warmer. Andrew has told me he now wants to go live with his father because it would be better to live with a father that doesn't want him and a step-mother who beats him rather than live with Newton and stay in SRS custody.
On January 21, 2003 I went to a supervised visit at the SRS office with my children. Samantha did not show up but Andrew did. I see the two older children for 1 hour now before I get to see Angela and Elizabeth. Andrew told me some very upsetting news. He told me a boy had had sex with Samantha. SHE IS ONLY 14 YEARS OLD! I believed him because my son would not lie about something like this. I also have several love notes that were written to Samantha from boys in school. Samantha wrote me a note on December 20, 2002 talking about suicide. Why won't the state protect my children? Why is Athena Boulger allowed to do all these mean things to me and my children?
On January 23, 2003 I called the Governor's hotline and reported this. I talked to a woman named Joan. Cindy Wade was with me and helped me. After I talked to Joan I called your office in Waterbury and talked to a woman named Danielle. Cindy Wade also talked to Danielle.
On January 24, 2003 I went to my supervised visit with both Andrew and Samantha. Samantha admitted to me that a boy did have sex with her about two months ago. This is called 'statutory rape'! I think Athena and Michelle already knew this but were not telling me. I think this explains all the sad poetry and notes Samantha writes to me. This explains why my 14-year-old daughter would climb onto my lap for a whole visit and cry like a baby. Why are you people doing this to us? Why did SRS allow my daughter to be raped?
What if my daughter gets pregnant? There is no 'parental notification' law in this state. Will SRS take my 14 year old Christian daughter to have an abortion and never tell me that too.
My husband and I are forced to live in a motel in Bennington in order to be close to our children. We have property in S. Newfane, Vermont and have a group of people helping us to get it ready to live in but it won't be ready until May or June of this year. We are searching for a 3-bedroom apartment or house to live in when our children are returned to us but the state took away almost half of our income when they took our daughter Angela's SSI payments. We were not on welfare or foodstamps. We bought our S. Newfane property with insurance money we received when our W. Haven, Vermont home burned to the ground three days after Christmas in 2000. The state has made us poor and made us into criminals. Why has the state done this? I know my children are worth lots of money to the state but their safety, education and happiness is more important. SRS has not charged me with truancy, neglect or abuse. Why are they doing this to us?
Mr. Smith, I want you to help my children. Please just give them back to me so that I can protect them from the people who work for you. I want to hold them again when they cry. I want to take care of them again. I want to make them happy again. What did I do that was so terrible the state had to take them away from me? Was it the homeschooling? Was it because we couldn't get our new home ready fast enough to please the state?
I want you and Governor Jim Douglas to take my children away from the people who are hurting them and give them back to me because I am their mother and I love them very much. I never, never hurt my children. SRS and the public school have hurt them very bad. Please let my children come home to me so that I can heal their hearts and make that hurt go away.
Governor Jim Douglas
Senator Mark Shepard
David Howard, Judge
Statement to the Bennington Family Court
and Presiding Judge
Thursday, February 13, 2003
I, Patricia L. O'Dell, wife of Raymond O'Dell and mother of Andrew Veach (age 15), Samantha Tompkins (age 14), Angela Cameron (age 11), and Elizabeth Veach (age 8), stand before you today accused of 'educational neglect' towards my four children. A charge of 'educational neglect' that neither the Social Rehabilitative Services nor the Department of Education can define or have yet to show me a copy of the written law.
As a citizen of the state of Vermont and as a United States citizen I am constitutionally guaranteed my right to speak freely and confront my accusers and thus I shall before this court passes a moral judgment on me.
First of all, I wish to bring to your attention the many false accusations, half-truths and innuendoes that have brought forth this terrible injustice to me and my family.
Based on a false report dated September 12, 2002 by Colleen Cummings, a so-called SRS Investigator, we are presented as neglectful, irresponsible, despicable parents and outlaws. Right away Cummings declares that I was residing with my family at the Ladd Brook Motor Inn in Pownal, Vermont. Since when is it against the law to rent a motel room while visiting my ill mother in her hometown of Bennington, Vermont?
In her report Cummings declares that 'SRS has a long history of involvement with Patricia and her children.' This is true. When I was fifteen years of age I became pregnant. I remember SRS sticking their nose into my business by trying to bribe me by taking me to places like McDonalds and trying to convince me to murder my unborn child by having an abortion. I do not murder my unborn children. I love each and every one of my children and I make sacrifices to raise them.
Cummings then goes on to talk about SRS investigating me and my family during 2002 including my supposed 'lack of shelter.' My children and I have not lacked shelter since our home in West Haven, Vermont, burned to the ground a few days after Christmas in the year 2000. We no longer have a physical home but we have never lacked shelter. We chose to live in motels, shelters, with friends and relatives or have camped out during the warmer weather.
After our house fire we sold that property in the summer of 2001 through a real estate agent named Denise Byers. Ms. Byers works for Coldwell Bankers located at 182 Woodstock Avenue in Rutland, Vermont. We then purchased outright a new one acre lot in South Newfane, Vermont. We also purchased outright a used mobile home to place onto our property. The new lot had a dilapidated mobile home and a wooden structure that needed removal before we could place the new mobile home onto the property. The new property had been left empty for several years and had been vandalized. We were falsely accused by local police of creating this environment.
During warmer weather we camped on our own property while we worked to remove these structures. When colder weather arrived we moved into a shelter in North Bennington but continued to make daily visits to our property to care for our animals and work on the lot. Since when is it against the law to work toward rebuilding our home and lives?
To further their harassment Newfane town officials and police removed our animals from our property and accused us of abandoning and neglecting them. We demanded they return them to us but they did not listen to our requests. They insisted we sign the animals over to them but we refused since we were not guilty of any charges. We were never charged, fined or penalized but the town never returned our animals either. We suspect since the town is a ski town the officials were not happy to see us move into their territory.
Cummings claims I have 'a history of immediately relocating when SRS or the school system becomes involved.' She states this as though it were fact, not an assumption. How does Cummings know what my reasons are for relocating from time to time? I have never discussed my reasons with Cummings for relocating. I seldom discuss my reasons with anyone except my family. We move when it suits our needs.
Cummings states 'Patricia continually refused to allow her children to be enrolled in school.' If Cummings is referring to public school where my children are entitled to a Free And Public Education (FAPE) she is correct. This is for several reasons. It is clearly documented that three of my children were being denied a proper education in the public schools and they were in imminent danger while they attended these schools.
Beginning in 1998 I withdrew my three oldest children from public school and enrolled them in the Vermont Department of Education's Home Study program. I continued to enroll my children in the state's Home Study program in 1999, in 2000 and in 2001. I gradually weaned my children from the special education program as well since I am entitled to do under federal law.
This, however, did not please the local school officials because my enrollment in a home study program depleted their school budget of the funds that would have followed my children into their school. They complained but knew they were powerless to do anything about it since I was well within my legal and constitutional rights.
When our home burned down the local school principal decided to pursue us claiming that since we no longer had a home we couldn't possibly be homeschoolers.
In the summer of 2001 we continued to be hounded by school officials. That summer the state required me to assess all four of my children and pay for that assessment out-of-pocket. The state is required to pay for such an assessment but refused to do so. The state also required me to provide them with information and documentation of proof that went far beyond the requirements and scope of the law. I eventually agreed to their mandates and signed an agreement under duress.
When August came I once again enrolled my children in the state's home study program. According to regulations the state must call a hearing within 45 days of receiving my enrollment. A hearing was called for November 20, 2001, more than two months after my enrollment.
On November 20, 2001 I attended a bogus Home Study Hearing conducted by members of the Vermont Department of Education where I was duly harassed, intimidated and made fun of by members of the opposition. Several members informed me that my homeschooling standards were 'too high' for my children. I turned over documentation to these people showing them my required minimum course of study which went way beyond the requirements and a parental report showing how my children have made academic progress since leaving the public school system.
On November 28, 2001 I presented Bruce Bjornlund, the DOE Hearing Officer, with a 15 page Final Brief disclosing how the public schools failed to follow the laws and failed to provide my children with an adequate education.
On December 1, 2001 I received through an advocate a copy of the Hearing Officer's undated and unsigned wordy report and findings from DOE lawyer Barbara Crippen that said I 'failed to meet the requirements of 16 V.S.A. Sections 166b (a) (3-4), (d) and (i) and is unable to provide the children with a minimum course of study, her home study enrollments for Andrew Veach, Samantha Tompkins, Angela Cameron and Elizabeth Veach are disallowed for this year and for the following school year. Pursuant to 16 V.S.A. Section 166b (h) this order shall take effect immediately and a copy of this order shall be forwarded to the superintendent of Mrs. OâDellâs school district of residence.'
On or around December 5, 2001 I then received through an advocate yet another copy of the Hearing Officer's report and findings that was signed and dated this time. That report was less wordy but was still word-for-word verbatim in most places and it came to the same conclusion. I and several others are under the impression the report and findings were those of DOE lawyer Barbara Crippen and not those of the so-called fair and impartial Hearing Officer. We highly suspect the Hearing Officer simply signed his name to Crippen's report after condensing the original wording of that report. This report and this procedure is highly suspect in my mind and in the mind's of those who attended this hearing on my behalf.
I continued to homeschool my children inspite of the DOE's bogus and suspect report and findings. It is my understanding that I am well within my constitutional rights to homeschool my children since the U.S. Supreme Court made several ruling in the 1920âs upholding a parent's right to see to the upbringing and education of their children. Those rulings include such cases as Pierce v. Society of Sisters where the court says 'The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public school teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state, those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.'
The U.S. Supreme Court also upholds my right to homeschool with their decisions in the Meyer v. Nebraska and the Farrington v. Tokushige cases. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld my right to give my children a Christian education in the 1970's with their ruling in the Yoder v. Wisconsin case.
Cummings' allegation that I am 'legally required to enroll' my children in school is a bold face lie. According to Vermont Statutes and the compulsory attendance law: Title 16: Chapter 25: Attendance And Discipline 16 V.S.A. / 1121: Attendance by children of school age required:
A person having the control of a child between the ages of six and 16 years shall cause the child to attend a public school, an approved or recognized independent school or A home study program for the full number of days for which that school is held, unless the child: etc., etc..
Where the compulsory attendance law reads: 'A home study program' I understand that to mean A home study program, not the state's home study program, not an approved home study program, not Oak Meadow's home study program, not a correspondence home study program or any other specific home study program. A home study program can and does include MY home study program with my own chosen Bible-based curriculum and Christian materials. Until this law actually requires me through specific wording and instruction to enroll my children in the Department of Education's home study program I will continue to pursue the homeschooling of my children through a program designed by me and executed by me. A program steeped in religious teachings and concepts relative to our Christian and Native American background and understanding.
Cummings states that on January 9, 2002 I sent a letter to the North Bennington Graded School advising that I would not be enrolling my children in that school and that I would be looking into Christian schools and moving to the Brattleboro area. We had planned to complete the installment of our home on the South Newfane property but were delayed due to weather and financing as well as the continued harassment and persecution by school and SRS officials. No matter what I did it didn't seem to please Cummings and others who were making it 'their' business to intervene in my life. I saw no reason for this intervention other than to make my life as miserable as possible and to assure that I failed in trying to provide for my family. SRS seemed determined to prevent us from homeschooling and from establishing our home.
In January of 2002 while we were housed at the North Bennington homeless shelter I continued to homeschool my children. We made use of the small library in the home from time to time. We continued to do 'hands-on' lessons for the children whenever we shopped at stores, ate in restaurants or traveled with the children. At no time did our homeschooling ever cease and at no time did I ever discontinue to homeschool my children.
We continued to use the educational materials that were provided to us through the efforts of several other supporters including state representative Neil Randall and others in a support group. Sometime in the summer and fall of 2001 we acquired book bags filled with homeschooling materials and supplies from the state representative previously mentioned. Others in our support group provided us with books, paper, writing materials, drawing materials, workbooks and encouragement. At no time did we discontinue to homeschool even while traveling from place to place.
To this day we have an account at A Teacher's Closet in Rutland, Vermont where we can purchase educational materials and supplies. This account was established for us by a support group that includes state senator Hull Maynard on the Senate Education Committee, state representative Carl Haas and several others. We purchased over $180 worth of supplies for our 2002 school year there so far. The owner of this store is Patty Ryan who can verify this and can be reached at 802-773-1377.
When my four children were given their homeschooling materials after being taken into SRS custody on September 13, 2002 they were discouraged and prevented from using them. SRS has effectively stopped the on-going education of my children.
Cummings complains that I 'did not follow through on recommendations' from members of the local school and shelter staff. I found their recommendations unreasonable, invasive and down right prejudice of our choice to homeschool. They obviously had no understanding of what homeschooling is and how it is accomplished. The environment in the shelter eventually became a hostile one towards my family and our choices.
Once again SRS was contacted in order to get us to conform to the schools' wishes and unreasonable demands. This became a huge distraction for our homeschooling efforts and placed the children in imminent danger of being forced into the hostile environment that public schools provide. This was something we had walked away from back in 1998 when I withdrew my children from public schooling in the first place.
At this time I decided my family might be safer at another location and with the liberty to travel freely we decided to move 'down south' as Cummings states. I saw no need to give her or anyone a forwarding address nor am I required by law to do so. Cummings also states that 'SRS substantiated Educational Neglect' of my four children by me. Just how did she manage to do this? Is she so familiar with homeschooling she can make that judgment? Is she such an educational expert that she can determine such a thing?
Cummings declares that on April 2, 2002 the Brattleboro SRS accepted an investigation on us since we had returned from down south to continue work on our property, land that we own outright and pay taxes on.
Cummings then goes on to say that on June 27, 2002 the Bennington Police advised them we were 'camping on the backside of Lake Paran in Shaftsbury, Vermont and harassing others at the lake.' What Cummings describes as 'harassing' was my husband's attempt to warn a certain individual to stay away from me and our 13 year old daughter. His warning to this individual was a result of the man's sexual advances and his other sexually motivated actions towards the women in our family. Just how thoroughly did Cummings investigate this accusation from the Bennington Police who have a habit of harassing me and my family members for no apparent reason.
Cummings claims our so-called 'campsite' at Paran Lake was 'littered with garbage, children's clothing' and among other things too vulgar to go into detail about. We were not actually camping there. We were swimming and bullheading (fishing). Since when is it against the law for children to be messy and unkempt while fishing in the summer time? Since when is it against the law for children to hang or scatter their wet clothing to dry in the sun? All children are exposed to 'unsanitary conditions' when they go fishing in the outdoors. Are both the state and SRS now in the business of controlling the bowel movements of children? If this is a crime then no one should be allowed to go fishing with children.
Cummings then claims that on June 28, 2002 SRS visited the so-called 'campsite' where we had been and found us gone. Of course we left the sight. We were there to swim and fish. The Bennington Police once again insisted on needlessly harassing us and preventing us from enjoying our freedoms and liberties. Cummings also points out that we 'could not be located.' What was her point in reporting this? Was this to show that once again we 'relocated' as we are free to do? Since when is it against the law to move freely from place to place in this country? Did she honestly expect us to leave her a forwarding address?
Cummings reports that on September 10, 2002 the Bennington SRS received a so-called report from Carroll Shores, my son's biological father who lives in Tennessee. It was Tennessee where we had eventually relocated to after leaving Vermont in January. Being a warmer climate we considered making Tennessee a more permanent move. Unfortunately it was not to be. Andrew did however spend some time living with his father and stepmother in Tennessee.
After some time Andrew was removed from Shores' home due to the abuse he received at the hands of his stepmother. Andrew also overheard conversations between his father and step-mother scheming to take custody of Andrew in order to gain yet another source of income to the already SSI income they were receiving from the state of Vermont. Andrew's stepmother plotted to keep Andrew there, force him into public schooling and keep the income for herself and her husband in order to make purchases of material goods such as a new car. Andrew was not happy in his father's home and had realized his father had no emotional attachment to him. It was obvious to Andrew that his stepmother had no warm feelings for him either since she physically abused him. Yes, I removed Andrew from his father's home but not for the reasons Cummings insinuates.
Cummings states that I was repeatedly informed of the need to enroll my children in an appropriate school program. My children were enrolled in an appropriate education program--they continued to homeschool, even throughout the summer months while we traveled or camped out. I continued to create a course of study for my children to follow and strive for. Students in the public schools are not required to attend programs in the summer so why does Cummings feel my children should be the exception and be forced to do so? Are we as homeschoolers being held to a higher standard than those in public schools?
Cummings tells a lie when she states I continued 'to fail to enroll the children in school or to provide education to the children.' I resent her accusations since she has not been at my side for the past four years to witness our homeschooling. Cummings states that my children 'have been reported to be significantly delayed both educationally and socially and are in need of specialized educational programs.' This is bogus. My children were academically behind due to their public school experiences. It was I who have had to remediate them in areas of reading and math. The public school failed to teach my son Andrew to read. They didn't teach him phonics and he actually went backwards in his learning at the hands of so-called public school experts. The public school assumed Andrew was retarded, which he is not, and never gave him the examination to determine this but they labeled him anyway. The public school prevented my daughter Angela from learning and excelling also. This is all documented and can be proven.
What is Cummings' idea of social skills? Is it against the law to have questionable table manners? Is it against the law to leave our clothing strewn about when we are outdoors? My children may not have the opportunity to attend formal school dances, dine out in fine restaurants, or attend other elegant functions but this is simply not a priority for us. As Christians we live a humble existence and as Native Americans we live close to the land our fathers left us.
Quite frankly, it is none of Cummings' business or other's what we teach to our children. Once again Cummings complains that 'When Mrs. O'Dell is approached regarding the education of her children, she moves the children from the area.' Of course I'm going to move my children. I have a right to protect my children from those who would seek to harm them and that includes people like Cummings, school officials and police officers. My children do not belong to the state of Vermont. If I see my children are in imminent danger from the likes of Cummings or others I will continue to move them.
Cummings states that on September 11, 2002 SRS telephoned the Ladd Brook Motel to confirm that me and my family were indeed staying there. Is it against the law to stay at a motel with my family? When does staying in a motel to visit relatives establish residency? Cummings overstepped her boundaries and jurisdiction here.
Cummings states that on September 12, 2002 SRS telephoned several public and private schools in the Bennington area to see if I had enrolled my children. Why would I enroll my children in the Bennington schools when we were only visiting the area to see my ill mother? Cummings also states that my husband, Raymond O'Dell, 'has taken no initiative in ensuring that his child receives an education.' This is also a lie. Ray is very attentive to our daughter Elizabeth's education. He is a loving father to all the children even though he is not the biological father of my three oldest children. Cummings would suggest that Ray has no feelings and no sense when it comes to the raising of his child. Cummings insinuates that Ray would intentionally cause his child harm in anyway, including her education. Where is Cummings proof that Ray has taken no initiative to help his child?
Cummings states that 'SRS believes' we are unable to provide for the care and education of our children. A 'belief' is far different from a 'fact'. Cummings and SRS have NOT established any facts that prove my children were NOT being homeschooled or receiving an education.
We have always provided for the care and education of our children. We continued to provide shelter in some form or another during the changing seasons and we continued to homeschool right up to and even after SRS kidnapped our four children. Cummings' repeated 'SRS interventions' were unsuccessful because we were determined to prevent our children from falling into their hands where we knew they would be in imminent danger and now our worst fears have been proven. To this day our four children are being abused and mistreated at the hands of SRS and foster parents. We have documentation to prove this.
Cummings stresses in her bogus report that my children Andrew, Samantha and Angela have different fathers as though this were a crime. She emphasizes the fact that some of these fathers either cannot be found or are incarcerated as though this were my fault and a direct result of my parenting. I cannot account for the behavior of these men. I only know I have tried very hard to put some distance between them and my children in order to protect my children from their past abuses toward both my children and me. Ray has been step-father to my three oldest children for nearly ten years now. For Andrew, Samantha and Angela my husband Ray is the only real and stable father they have known. They have a loving relationship with him and call him 'Dad'.
Cummings states in her report that 'BASED ON THE ABOVE INFORMATION, SRS BELIEVES THAT' my children 'ARE CHILDREN IN NEED OF CARE AND SUPERVISION.' Is the 'care' and 'supervision' she is referring to the same
'care' and 'supervision' the four separate foster homes are now providing for my children? The same foster homes where our children are being abused to the point of rape? The same foster homes where our daughter Elizabeth is receiving bruises and beatings from? The same foster homes who have allowed my 14 year old daughter to be raped? The same foster homes that refuse to take my son who has been coughing up blood to a doctor for medical care? The same foster homes that won't provide my son with blankets when the temperature outside is below freezing? My list of these documented abuses in these homes goes on and on.
SRS took my children from their homeschooling and placed them into failing public schools that are on a list with other failing schools. Do you call this education? Do you call this 'the best interest of the children?'
SRS took my children from me and placed them with strangers who harm them, neglect them and destroy their dignity. Do you call this care and supervision? Do you call this 'the best interest of the children?'
If I have truly neglected the education of my children then why was my 14 year old daughter placed at grade level when she was forced to re-enter public school? She left public school in the 5th grade. She was placed in the 9th grade upon re-entry. That means she skipped four grades. She has even excelled in math. If I did not homeschool her these past four years then how do you explain this?
Now my daughter Samantha lingers in a hostile environment where she continues to be sexually harassed by several boys on a daily basis. I have her letters expressing her fears and I have the letters from the boys who are making sexual advances on my 14 year old Christian homeschooled daughter. SRS has placed her in imminent danger and as a result she has been sexually harassed and raped.
If my 8 year old daughter was not receiving an education at home then how do you explain her entry into public schooling at grade level? Elizabeth gets 100âs on spelling tests. She excels at swimming and skiing. How is this possible if we have not taught her at home all these years?
Now SRS has placed Elizabeth in a hostile environment where she is dragged around by teenage boys and she has bruises left on her. She is in a foster home with four teenage boys, a single mother who works full-time and has a boyfriend who is allowed to be near my little girl. Do you call this care and supervision? Do you call this the best interest of a child? Before all this Elizabeth had never been separated from me and Ray.
SRS and state police chased Elizabeth through the woods on September 13, 2002 and hunted her down like an animal. They took her before they acquired a search warrant to come on to my mother's property. If the state police have complained for years they lack funding, personnel and resources then why do they have time and enough people to chase down very young homeschooling children?
Or country is at war with another country and with terrorists yet SRS, state police and public school officials have time and money to chase homeschooling children. I think they can find better things to do such as chase criminals and terrorists, not poor people who homeschool their children. To me and my family SRS is a bigger threat to our safety and well-being than any terrorists.
Unfortunately, the public school has reinstituted the gradual undoing of the homeschooling of my son and my 11 year old daughter. The public schools are famous for this. They will classify a child as learning disabled and then proceed to do everything in their power to prevent that child from learning in order to maintain their jobs as special educators. My son Andrew and daughter Angela struggle in this environment at the same time they live in fear and torment in the foster homes that have them. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness have no meaning to me, my husband, and my children as long as SRS holds us all captive.
We have been denied our liberties and due process at every turn. We have been coerced, threatened and manipulated by members of SRS, the Department of Education, by members of the police force and by public school officials. Our constitutional rights under the 1st, 4th, 5th, 9th and 14th amendments have been violated, undermined or terminated by over zealous do-gooders or by those intent on harming us.
If we committed a crime then charge us. Give us our due process and let us proceed in an open court of law to establish our guilt since we are innocent until proven guilty. Stop playing these games with our lives and stop tormenting us. We, as Vermont and United States citizens are entitled to that much.
I humbly ask the court here today to return my children to me and to make SRS cease their selective persecution of me and my family. They have discriminated against me long enough and this must stop here and now. I am at the mercy of this court to bring to an end the torture of my children and the denial of my constitutional and God-given right to raise my children. I beg the court to let us all go from this bondage so that we may continue to educate our children and to heal our family from the pain and suffering we have received at the hands of SRS, the Bennington Police and the public schools.
SRS has only worked to harm me and my family and to make fun of us. Instead of helping us as others do SRS enjoys hurting us. SRS works to keep us from establishing our home. Others, more generous and less judgmental, work to help us with our property and problems. SRS works to prevent my children from getting a better education than what public schools provide. Others, more understanding and supportive work to help us achieve our homeschooling goals by providing assistance and materials. SRS works to undermine our efforts to support ourselves. Others work hard to connect us to programs and agencies that help us to be get back on our feet.
Our case-worker Athena Boulger has made it very clear she has no intentions of helping me and my family. She has expressed to me that her only reason for existence is to prevent us from reuniting and to make our lives as miserable as she can unless I give into her coercion, unreasonable demands and her whims. She has deliberately withheld pertinent information in my case that could help me and has established rules that are down-right dangerous to the health and well-being of my children.
I humbly ask this court to NOT pass moral judgment on me and my family and to please let us go in peace.
Patricia L. O'Dell 2/13/03
For Immediate Release
25 February 2003
Patricia and Ray O'Dell, citizens of Vermont and of Cherokee and Mohawk descent, are the parents of four children (ages 8-15) held in SRS (Social Rehabilitative Services) custody since September 13, 2002. The state took custody of these children charging 'educational neglect' because the O'Dells homeschool their children. SRS and the VT Department of Education cannot define 'educational neglect'. The state then placed the O'Dell children in the Bennington school district where the schools are on the state's failing list of schools. Patricia O'Dell was shackled and incarcerated for 7 days due to charges stemming from these allegations.
Since the O'Dell children were taken by SRS they have suffered abuse, neglect, sexual harassment and molestation at the hands of case workers, foster parents and individuals allowed to have unsupervised contact with the O'Dell children while they remain in state custody. Photos, tapes and letters document these abuses. The O'Dell children were separated and are being housed with four different foster homes. They have little contact with each other and are only allowed a 1-hour supervised visit with parents two days a week.
Individuals and agencies such as Governor James Douglas, Secretary of Human Services, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator James Jeffords, Congressman Bernard Sanders, Senator Richard Sears, Senator Mark Shepard, Rutland SRS, FBI, Lt. Governor Brian Dubie, Senator John Crowley, Senator Hull Maynard and others have been contacted and urged to assist and protect these children but only a few have responded favorably although not enough to stop the abuse. The O'Dell parents have been told at nearly every encounter with these individuals and agencies that SRS is untouchable or that SRS is investigating itself.
The O'Dell children live in constant fear of reprisal from their custodians when they speak out against their abusers. Audio tapes and letters have been smuggled out of the foster homes by the children that reveal a constant barrage of abuses, including coercion, bribes and threats. The O'Dells want their children removed from their present foster homes and placed in safe homes in another county for the time being. They have no recourse but to take their plight to the public since even the Governor has no authority to intervene and protect their children or simply won't. The O'Dells' pleas have fallen on deaf ears at every level in the state government. The more the O'Dells complain to local, state and federal officials the more the abuse is heaped upon their innocent children.
A press conference was held at 11:00 a.m. at the state capitol on Thursday, February 20, 2003 by the O'Dells. Packets of written information were available to the media. Patricia O'Dell read the following statement to the press:
"We, Patricia and Ray O'Dell, as Vermont citizens, are respectfully requesting that Governor James Douglas use his authority and power to remove our four children, being held in SRS custody for the charge of Îeducational neglectâ, from their present abusive Bennington County foster homes and to place them in safe foster homes in the Rutland County, where we are presently residing, until this matter can be resolved in the courts.
We have pleaded and begged for months to authorities, state and federal representatives, agency heads and to the media to protect our children from the abuse and neglect they have received while in SRS custody. We have documented these abuses and now wish to take our pleas to the public in order to protect our children and, to quite possibly, save their young lives."
The Curmudgeon: A Vermont Newsletter
November 28, 2002
State Denies O'Dell Family Due Process and Free Exercise
By Cindy Wade
Off To Court--Again
On Thursday, December 5 at 9:00 a.m. Patricia O'Dell, 34, of S. Newfane, Vermont will be due in Family Court in Bennington to defend her right to homeschool her children before Judge David Howard. O'Dell has been assigned a public defender by the court (her third since September 13) but she has only seen him once since he was assigned to her case on October 7. This public defender has neglected to return any of O'Dell's or her advocate's telephone calls to his office and has deliberately made himself scarce since his one and only appearance on October 24 when he represented her at a show cause hearing. The show cause hearing was held the same day O'Dell was released from the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) in S. Burlington, Vermont, where she had been incarcerated for 7 days for refusing to sign release orders. What was O'Dell's original crime? Homeschooling her four children: Andrew (15); Samantha (14); Angela (11); and Elizabeth (8).
O'Dell has been piecing together her own defense for the December 5 hearing. She herself has called upon several witnesses to attend this hearing on her behalf. She has also gathered together as much of the necessary documentation as she can to do battle with the bureaucratic behemoths Social Rehabilitative Services (SRS) and the Vermont Department of Education (DOE). Personnel at the DOE have alleged 'educational neglect' against O'Dell. In a November 14 interview with Ruth Dwyer on ABC 22 TV Natalie Casco, Home Study Consultant for the DOE, could not define 'educational neglect' although this is the crime which they have accused O'Dell of committing. When asked by Ruth Dwyer if the DOE calls in the SRS to pursue parents charged with 'educational neglect' Casco's response was a resounding, 'No, no, no.' Bill Young, SRS Commissioner, immediately followed Casco's interview during the broadcast and his response to the same question concerning whether the DOE calls in SRS was, 'A school or the Department of Education or both bring a matter to our attention alleging educational neglect.' There seems to be a conflict concerning who is making the allegations and it would appear that one department or the other is not being truthful with the facts.
Meanwhile, SRS has taken custody of O'Dell's four children when the three girls were taken from her mother's property on Rocky Lane in Bennington on September 13. Approximately 20 people including state police, town constables and SRS members converged on the property without prior notice and without a search warrant. O'Dell was never contacted concerning this alleged violation of 'educational neglect' and no notice was ever served. O'Dell's youngest child, Elizabeth, was spotted outside the home and five members of the police force chased the child through the woods for several hundred yards. When O'Dell ran after her daughter to protect her from the intruders she tripped over a stone in the underbrush, falling into one of the officers and causing him to lose his balance. Later this same officer, Trooper Jesse Robson, accused O'Dell of 'shoving' him with both her hands and 'pushing' him, an accusation O'Dell hotly denies.
According to Robson's affidavit O'Dell 'repeatedly went inside her home'. This is a false statement because this was not O'Dell's home but the home of her ill mother, Patricia Stewart. Stewart was returning home from the hospital on September 13 when she was confronted by a number of police and SRS officials. One officer made threats against Stewart and was prepared to use pepper spray on her if she intervened. Stewart promptly told the officers to get off her property if they did not have a search warrant. It was soon after this confrontation that Officer Lloyd N. Dean went to acquire a search warrant.
At this point, however, Elizabeth had already been taken away by SRS member, Colleen Cummings. O'Dell had also been removed from the scene after she was thrown to the ground by Trooper Robson and two others, cuffed and escorted to a police cruiser where Robson grabbed her by the face and pulled her hair before forcing her into the car. O'Dell was taken to the Shaftbury Police station unescorted by any female officer.
Once at the police station O'Dell was simply detained until the officers could obtain a search warrant. Once Officer Dean returned with the warrant the Stewart home was searched and the two remaining girls were found hiding in the basement. O'Dell's sister, Samantha, told of how the officers pulled clothing and items from small spaces, including a small laundry basket obviously too small to hide a child, and threw them about.
While at the police station O'Dell was not fingerprinted nor did they take her photo. Robson had left a small red mark on O'Dell's upper right cheek where he pressed his thumb into her face in an attempt to prevent her from talking. This mark would have been obvious in any photograph taken at that time. Robson had also injured O'Dell's right hand and wrist when he threw her to the ground and forced her arms behind her back. Once he applied the handcuffs he deliberately twisted O'Dell's arms in another attempt to quiet her as she yelled to her young daughter to run away.
It was later determined at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center by Doctor G. Pellerin that O'Dell's right hand and wrist were sprained. Dr. Pellerin applied a wrap and sling to stabilize the arm and prescribed medication for the pain. In a video taped interview recorded two days after the incident, O'Dell can be seen wearing the support bandage and sling on her right arm and a contusion on her upper left arm from officer Robson's brutal treatment is visible
O'Dell's son, Andrew, was not at his grandmother's home the day the police arrived so he remained on the run for several weeks. On November 14 Andrew appeared as a fugitive from justice in a prerecorded interview with Ruth Dwyer on her Hard Look segment on ABC 22 TV. Andrew was eventually caught by police and SRS officials on November 10 and held in a detention center for boys for nearly a week where he was locked in a private room. The Hard Look interview was filmed prior to Andrew's capture. While Andrew was held in the detention center he became so distraught that he would vomit his food and he was denied bathroom privileges during the night according to his mother who spoke to him by telephone but was not allowed to see him.
More Abuse and Harassment from Officials
When SRS first took custody of O'Dells' children they made it obvious to her they had no intentions of allowing her children to return to her any time soon. They accused O'Dell of living with her mother in the crowded home on Rocky Lane when in fact O'Dell and her family were registered at the Ladd Brook Motel in Pownal at that time. The O'Dells preferred to rent motel rooms with their room service, cable TV, continental breakfast, shower facilities, lights, heat, telephone (they use calling cards) and housekeeping services as opposed to renting an apartment where they would have to pay separate utility bills, exorbitant security deposits and possibly be required to sign a lease.
In the summer months the O'Dells prefer to camp in the out of doors where they can indulge in their Native American heritage. SRS then accused the O'Dells of being homeless when in fact they own property and a mobile home in S. Newfane, Vermont. The O'Dells were in the process of preparing their newly acquired property last summer and fall when school authorities began to harass and hound them in August before the public school year began.
While preparing their S. Newfane property the O'Dells continued to camp out on their land during the warmer weather. Once the colder season set in they moved to a homeless shelter in N. Bennington but still traveled the 38 miles to S. Newfane to care for their animals and work on dismantling the structures that were on the property when they bought it. School authorities continued to harass them but by now the town officials decided to get into the act by confiscating the O'Dells' pets and livestock.
Town constables and Humane Society workers sneaked onto the O'Dell property without a warrant sometime in December of 2001 and removed the animals. The O'Dells were not at home and were shocked to return home to their property and find their animals missing. Every last dog, cat, chicken and goat had disappeared. Sometime later the town notified the O'Dells and threatened to charge them with abandonment and abuse if they did not sign the animals over to the authorities. The O'Dells refused and demanded their animals be returned but to no avail. The town of Newfane kept the animals and at several select board meetings discussed who would be responsible for the expense of caring for the O'Dells' animals. The O'Dells were never charged with a crime and were never billed for the care of the animals the town officials stole from them.
The taking of the O'Dell animals was the last straw for this beleaguered family. It was after this latest round of abuse and harassment from state and town officials that the O'Dells decided to try to make a go of living in another state. They contacted relatives in Connecticut and moved their homeschooling family to what they hoped would be a better and less hostile environment. It was a crowded existence in the home with family members but the O'Dells and their relatives made the most of it. The school officials weren't harassing them and they could live in relative peace. They missed their Vermont family and friends. They missed their pets, especially little Moses, Patricia's prized chow her family gave her as a birthday gift after their home in West Haven burned to the ground on December 29, 2000. When warm weather returned in the spring of 2002 the O'Dells packed their bags and headed back to Vermont and into New York to return to their first love--camping under the stars.
Once back in the area the O'Dells soon found out the local officials had not forgotten about them and the harassment began anew. While camping at several different sites state and local police started their methodical abuse of the O'Dell's property rights and their constitutional rights. Officials continued to harass the O'Dell family all summer long. When the school year officially began in the Bennington area that is when authorities made their move to forcibly take the O'Dell children from their parents and charge 'educational neglect' since the family continued to homeschool.
The O'Dell family continues to be denied their constitutional rights including their right to practice their religion without state interference. Since Patricia and Ray O'Dell are only allowed to see their children at two 1-hour supervised visits on Mondays and Fridays they cannot teach their children their religious beliefs nor can they practice their faith with their children. Patricia O'Dell, in spite of the state's intolerance of her faith, is a devout Christian. She has supplied her children with bibles and prayer books while they remain in the four separate foster homes they are being forced to live in.
Foster Home Abuse
On Sunday, October 27 Patricia and Ray O'Dell made a surprise visit to my home along with their two daughters, Elizabeth and Angela. That morning the two girls had run away from their foster homes. They managed to elude their caretakers long enough to get to a telephone where they called their mother. Once O'Dell had them back in her care she became alarmed when 8 year old Elizabeth showed her mother a bruise on her left hip. The two girls informed their mother they had run away from the foster homes because they were being abused and they were frightened to remain there.
I was able to talk directly with Elizabeth and Angela while they were with me. Elizabeth informed me the bruise on her hip was a result of being 'dragged' by one of the four boys in the foster home where she was living. She told me this was not the only time she had been dragged around by the foster mother's 15-year-old son. O'Dell noticed another bruise on Elizabeth's upper right shoulder during a supervised visit in the SRS office approximately a week prior to discovering this latest injury. O'Dell expressed concern that the foster mother who is single and works full-time left her small daughter alone with these four boys. According to O'Dell the foster mother also has a boyfriend who comes to the home.
Elizabeth informed me she was instructed to tell her mother that she 'fell' on the steps of the school. I asked Elizabeth if she fell on the steps and she said 'no'. I then asked her if she had ever fallen on the steps and she said 'no'. According to Elizabeth the injuries were not simply a result of horseplay. She said the boy does this to deliberately hurt her.
That same night the O'Dell family was taken to the Weston Priory in Weston, Vermont where they pleaded for sanctuary and political asylum from the Vermont State government. Two brothers offered to help by contacting a woman in Ludlow who then took the family to a local hotel for the night. Unfortunately, the next day the girls were turned back into SRS custody by another Ludlow woman who made it her business to intervene.
From Homeschooling To Failing Schools
Once SRS took custody of O'Dells' children they placed all four children into public schools in the Bennington and Pownal area. Elizabeth, who had never attended public school, was forced into Pownal Elementary School. Elizabeth was expected to function in a strange new environment without the love and support of her parents whom she had never been separated from before.
Angela was enrolled against her will in Molly Stark Elementary School, one of the six remaining schools on the state's 'failing' list until just recently. Both she and Elizabeth have been subjected to immunizations, harassment, testing, probing and psychological counseling against their will and against O'Dells' wishes. Angela was also handcuffed by police and carried back to school grounds when she and another foster daughter in her home ran away from school in October. Angela claims this girl was beaten with a belt in the foster home and she was thrown down when she tried to intervene.
O'Dell also had expressed her dislike for the pagan holiday of Halloween and did not want her children to participate. Once she realized the foster homes and SRS still intended to make the children participate O'Dell gave strict instructions to her caseworker, Athena Bolger, that her daughters were to be dressed as Princesses or Angels and not as any demonic characters. She was later informed her daughters were purposely dressed in ghoulish costumes and made to participate in Halloween functions.
Samantha and Andrew were enrolled against their will at Mt. Anthony Union High School where both teachers and students have subjected them to harassment. MAUHS is also on the state's 'failing' schools list along with Mt. Anthony Middle School. Of the six remaining schools on the state's failing list Bennington had three of them.
According to O'Dell one teacher in particular has caused Samantha to become distraught over comments the teacher was making about her daughter's appearance. The teacher has been making cruel remarks about Samantha's pretty features and telling her that being beautiful was not enough to guarantee success in life. Andrew has been accosted in the stairwells by upper classmen and is being denied any remedial reading, which his mother feels he needs since the schools failed to teach him to read prior to him homeschooling.
Guilty Of What?
So far, O'Dell has not been charged with truancy, neglect or abuse towards her children. In fact, she has been told by SRS they know she was not abusing or neglecting her children. According to the state police affidavits SRS and the DOE have charged 'educational neglect' but they have yet to define what it is. O'Dell is now being told SRS has changed it's mind and they want to charge her with homelessness. Her public defender is no where in sight and won't return her telephone calls. She has been told she can have her children back if she promises to keep them in public schools, a demand that is against the law and unconstitutional according to U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Also, the O'Dell family cannot practice their religious faith because of the state's interference.
Since losing their children to state custody the O'Dells have also lost nearly half their SSI income. Mr. O'Dell is on disability for a birth defect and one of the children receives SSI. They now cannot afford to rent an apartment for the entire family unless they use their remaining income for housing and forgo groceries and utilities. Their S. Newfane property is on hold while the winter season makes it virtually impossible to finish the work necessary to complete setting their mobile home in place. Many volunteers have storage sheds loaded with furnishings for the family and are waiting to see what becomes of the O'Dells. The O'Dells will need a 3-bedroom apartment or house until June when the work on their property can be completed. They are seeking a place in the Rutland area to be closer to those helping with their situation.