Guyton teen deaths spark bill to increase homeschool regulations

Georgia News

Georgia lawmakers introduced a bill to strengthen homeschooling regulations in Georgia.

This comes after Mary and Elwyn Crocker Jr. was found buried behind their Effingham County home in December.

Representatives Bill Hitchens, Jon Burns, and Ron Stephens of Rincon introduced House Bill 530 which would prohibit parents from removing kids from public school to avoid complying with attendance and disciplinary laws.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DFCS) would also be notified if a child is withdrawn from school without notification or stops attending school for an extended period or cannot be located.  Currently, parents are only required to give notice once a year with the student’s information.

Case files released by DFCS reveal Mary and Elwyn Crocker Jr., were both homeschooled before their deaths.

Stephens says the bill was amended Wednesday to protect homeschoolers. He says the purpose is “If there is any indication of a child in the school that has had a past history of abuse then it ought to be notified through the school system that the Department of Children and Family Services ought to go investigate it. And these two kids in Guyton fell through the cracks clearly and all we’re trying to do is remedy that.”

Documents reveal DFCS had been involved with the Crocker family since 2012 immediately after Candace and Elwyn Crocker moved to Effingham County from South Carolina.

In March 2012, deputies were called to the home of the step-grandmother Kim Wright, after a stranger reported seeing marks and bruises on Elwyn Jr’s face. Documents reveal, Jr., says this was punishment by his step-uncle Mark Wright. DFCS says they provide family counseling, coping skills, and engagement with the school. The family completed the case plan and the case was closed in 2013.

Stephens says they want to protect children without affecting parents that want to homeschool. “If there is a child that shows symptoms of abuse in any way that the school notifies the family and children services especially if they’ve been withdrawn for any purpose for any length of time so that the family and children’s services can follow up on the safety of that child,” he said.

In March 2017 documents reveal a fellow student learning about child abuse in class, decided to reveal to a school counselor what she had witnessed, a year earlier. She said Elwyn Jr.,  had been beaten by his step-grandmother, Kim Wright. The counselor reported to DFCS but they didn’t look into it.

“Based upon our policy since there was no impending or imminent danger at that time then it was decided that the case would be screened out,” Region Director, Department of Family and Children Services, Sheila Dease – Dinkins said.

We asked Dinkins if DFCS are partly responsible for what happened to Mary and Elwyn. “No, I don’t. And I say that strongly because we followed our practices and our protocols,” Dinkins said.

Stephens says in the future DFCS could face changes when handling cases where historical evidence is presented.  “This bill will direct them to do that. It’s not a change in your rules or regs we’re going to pass a law if a law comes about that you will investigate.”

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