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number who ought to attend, and a means of ascertaining accurately those who are attending. Nor is the time as now ordered, better than any other time for the purpose of ascertaining the basis of the distribution of State grants.
The average attendance in all the schools was 853 less than
This contraction is in part explained by the opening in several large towns of private schools. This special cause cannot long operate, because the number which can be withdrawn from public to private schools is limited, and the limit will soon be reached. Moreover, private schools cannot exist in competition with public schools, as long as the latter maintain a clear superiority. This superiority has thus far been easily maintained, and no considerable number of people can be enticed or compelled to diminish the privileges of their children. So long as the best education is found in the public schools, these schools will attract the great body of children. The law which requires all children under 13 years of
age, to attend 120 days in each year, places this State in the lead in respect of compulsory attendance. In districts where school is open not longer than six months in the year, conformity to the law will permit no absence not guarded by the recognized legal excuses.
The law now regards each week's absence a distinct offence on the part of the parent, who may be proceeded against at once, and also permits the State Board of Education more actively to engage in enforcing attendance.
The above enactments did not take effect until June 1st, near the close of the school year, and have not affected attendance of the year covered by this report.
There are many parents who assert what they call their right of governance; such think it unjust that they must send their children to school, and thus lose the profit of their labor. Others, timid about interfering with the relation of parent and child, prefer that the child should suffer abuse and deprivation rather than disturb the principle of parental control.
There is no necessity of confusion or hesitation here. That parents may have the governance of their children is not an unalterable principle upon which unchangeable laws are based
It is only a proposition based upon extensive experience and embodying the general conviction that parents inspired by instinctive love will treat their children wisely and humanely. There is a strong probability that they will so treat them. This presumption of good will yield to a certainty of evil. When it is certain that a parent is injuring his child a point is reached where society says his action is not reasonable, and the law says is not lawful. It may be unreasonable long before it is unlawful, but it is merely a question of degree when the legal limit is overstepped.
In the above enactments, responsibility for the education of the child is placed upon the parent. It is admitted that the parent may and ought to understand what is the best education for his own child. But at the point of no education or of limited education resulting in mental starvation, the law undertakes to make the parent do his duty. If in the exercise of his judgment and right of control, the parent gives no education he has overstepped the reasonable limit of control and transgressed the positive enactment. He is now compelled to do what he ought to do.
Similarly there is no principle which confers upon a parent the right to cause his child to work for gain or for the support of the family. It is supposed that the labor which the parent compels the child to perform will result in good to the child. If the mind or body of the child are injured by work in any industry, the limit of reason is again overstepped, and the law compels the parent to refrain from doing what he ought not to do. Both in depriving the child of education and in causing him to spend his early years in labor the parent is not conforming to what the experience and convictions of society regard as right. He is not acting in a reasonable manner, and the law says he is not acting in a lawful manner.
The enactments relating to attendance and employment have restrained and mitigated in many cases the harshness of parental control. If they have accomplished nothing more their operation has been beneficent.
Hereafter attendance at a private school will not satisfy the law unless registry of attendance.is kept and is open to agents of the State. The State exerts its authority to compel attend
ance at public and private schools impartially. It is clearly just that the record touching attendance at both should be so far exposed that the result of its action and the ground of farther action should be within its observation.
The number attending private schools has heretofore been approximately stated. This law will secure accurate returns.
Of all the duties which the town and state have assumed, none is more imperative than that of securing regular attendance. The number who are absent or irregular is immeasurably larger than it should be and immeasurably larger than it might be.
To reduce the number of irregular attendants, to bring every child in the state to our common schools, there is no way so simple and so certain as making school a place of interest. This draws those who otherwise would not come, and keeps many who would not otherwise remain. To this end every local and state energy should be directed, and upon this, main reliance should be placed.
The following table shows the steady increase in the number of small schools.
Schools averaging less than 8 165 166 180 198 215
This means that more than 200 schools with all the attendant expense are maintained for less than 1600 scholars.
Below will be found the Report of Mr. Giles Potter, the Agent of the Board.
To Mr. CHARLES D. HINE,
Secretary of State Board of Education:Sir: I submit the following report of my work as Agent of the Board for the twelve months ending August 31st, 1887.
During that period in performing my duties I visited the following towns :
Branford, Bridgeport, Bridgewater, Bristol, Canterbury, Chatham, Cheshire, Clinton, Colchester, Cornwall, Cromwell, Danbury, Derby, Eastford, East Haven, East Lyme, Enfield, Farmington, Griswold, Groton, Guilford, Haddam, Hartford, Huntington, Killingly, Ledyard, Litchfield, Madison, Meriden, Middle
field, Middletown, Montville, New Canaan, New Hartford, New Haven, New London, New Milford, Newtown, North Branford, Norwalk, Norwich, Orange, Oxford, Plainfield, Plainville, Plymouth, Portland, Preston, Putnam, Ridgefield, Rocky Hill, Say. brook, Seymour, South Windsor, Sprague, Stafford, Stonington, Stratford, Suffield, Thomaston, Vernon, Waterbury, Waterford, Windham.
failure to cause them to attend school..
In some of the towns named above considerable time was occupied in examining the lists of names of children enumerated in each district and in comparing the names with those on the school registers, and in visiting those families whose children, according to the records, had failed to attend school as the law requires. But most of the towns were visited with some special cases of neglect in view.
Owing to the fact that manufacturing establishments were being visited by special agents, I gave less attention to children in the towns and villages where such establishments are situated than I had done in former years, when I visited many families in such places. This accounts for the difference in the number of homes visited during the past year and the numbers reported in some former years. In some of the towns above named it required considerable time to investigate and correct a single case of neglect.
I have endeavored to follow up more thoroughly than formerly cases where it had been found that there had been criminal neglect on the part of parents and others having control of children, In doing this a much larger number of parents have been prosecuted for failing to send their children to school than in any former year.
Efforts have been made to secure compliance with the compulsory school laws without resort to severe measures. But notices and admonitions would soon cease to have any effect if it were not known that penalties are often imposed for violations of these laws. A larger number of prosecutions does not, therefore, indicate greater neglect on the part of parents and others, but that the cases have been more carefully kept in view after admonitions have been given. A smaller number of cases strictly followed up with the law judiciously enforced have more influence with those who are inclined to be negligent, than notices and admonitions to a greater number who are then lost sight of.
Truant officers in places where they have been employed have done excellent service and often corrected the wayward tendencies of children who were ungoverned at home. Observation, however, has convinced me that a large part of the cases which have required the attention of such officers could have been corrected by the parents and would have been, had the parents felt that they themselves were to be punished if the children were not in school. There have been.cases where the children were more affected by fear that their parents would have to pay a fine than by fear of the Reform School.
It is not true as some assert that free schools tend to make parents feel that they have no responsibility in the education of their children. The parents who have such feeling would not educate their children at all if the schools were not free and education compulsory. Truant officers do not make the parents feel that they are not responsible for the absence of their children from school, for this feeling is quite as prevalent in towns where there are no such officers. But there are parents who do not feel responsible to any body nor for anything. They are mindful of their rights but not of their duties. They profess to blame employers if their children are too long absent from school even when it is only through their own solicitations and deceptions that they are employed at all. I am therefore more and more convinced that the proper way to make education compulsory is by enforcing the law on the parents.
Formerly our laws seemed to assume that it was demand on the part of employers for the services of children that kept them from school ; then the truancy of the children.
But lastly we have came to the true plan of enforcing parental responsibility. Children have been kept from school sometimes by the avarice of