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Parental guidance: A 6-year-old needs to be in school

I know a 6-year-old who has never been to school or a doctor and never plays with other children. What happens if the parents don't enroll the child in first grade? If the child goes to school, how will the child, having little or no socialization skills, interact with other children?

 

Kindergarten is optional, but first grade is mandatory under New York State compulsory education law, says Jacqueline Harris, assistant superintendent for student services for the South Huntington school district. Every child who turns 6 before Dec. 1 must be registered for school the first day it's in session that academic year. If a parent chooses to home school, there's still a protocol, she says. The parent must work with the school district to develop an instruction plan that includes progress reports.

If a parent doesn't do one of those two things, it's considered educational neglect and Child Protective Services gets involved, Harris says. However, someone would have to report the offender to the school district (which can be done anonymously) or the authorities may not know of the situation, Harris says.

As far as your second question, "I'm not too worried," says Wendi Fischer, school psychologist for kindergarten through third grade in the Elwood school district. Children adapt quickly; if the child is unusually shy or experiencing separation anxiety, teachers and school psychologists are trained to step in with counseling or social skills programs. "Any teachers worth their salt would be able to encourage the child to interact with other kids," she says.

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