Homeschool mother files civil rights claims against city schools, county


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Buffalo mother whose children were taken away by workers from Erie County Child Protective Services is fighting back. Kiarre Harris is accusing CPS and Buffalo Public Schools of racial discrimination.

Harris has filed two federal civil rights complaints, against BPS and CPS, with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Education. The Buffalo mother of two claims the two agencies preventing her from homeschooling her children because she is African American.

Recalling her last contact with her children, Harris told a Wednesday afternoon news conference, they talked by phone, “The children are very depressed, they miss me a lot, they miss being home, and the children are traumatized.”

Kiarre Harris said she has not seen her kids for 45 days, since CPS took them away, at a hotel in Cheektowaga, while police took her into custody on a bench warrant. Harris’ is being represented by Buffalo schools’ District Parent Coordinating Council in her fight with BPS.

DPCC parent Franklin Redd said CPS and BPS should be supporting Harris’ education efforts, instead of fighting her, “These children should be back in the custody and care of their mother, and we should be looking at the policies and procedures that guide the actions of staff when a parent decides to homeschool.”

Harris says CPS has cited 7 charges in Family Court as a basis for intervening in her family affairs, 5 of them related to “educational neglect”, a term generally linked to chronic absence. She blames those claims on fouled up paperwork–not neglect.

“Their education level was never assessed. They refused to look at the documents, they refused to look at any of the children’s school work that they had been doing at home. So for them to say that they were being educationally neglected, there was no basis for their claims.”

So DPCC president Samuel Radford said the group has filed two civil rights complaints against Buffalo Public Schools and Erie County’s Child Protective Services with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, on Harris’ behalf, “to determine whether she is being treated differently than other people similarly situated–with other people who have done much less, have their children been taken for something like this?”

A spokesperson for Buffalo Public Schools has previously said CPS had already intervened in Kiarre Harris’ family affairs prior to the homeschool controversy. On Wednesday, she simply declined comment, so did the spokesman for Erie County. Harris returns to Family Court in three weeks.

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