Family Court Judge denies homeschool mom's custody request

Grants supervised visitation
Posted at 11:01 PM, Feb 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 19:05:16-05

An Erie County Family Court Judge has denied a single mother's request for custody of her kids following educational neglect claims that Harris says stemmed from trying to homeschool. 

Related: Was Buffalo mom jailed over homeschooling decision?

The Judge did grant supervised visitation to Kiarre Harris. She can see her children two hours per week with a Catholic Charities worker present. 

"I requested the immediate vacation of the order that removed them from their mother's custody," said Vanessa Guite, Harris' attorney. "Or in the alternative, unsupervised visitation and another attorney suggested that my client's mother be the supervisor and that was rejected by the court as well."

"The trauma that these children are going through without being with their mother is unconscionable if you ask me," said Buffalo Common Council Member Ulysses Wingo.

Harris' case is going National. The college educated, single Buffalo parent says she tried to homeschool her children, but instead ended up in jail for obstructing a court order to remove her kids for educational neglect.

"This can happen to anyone," Wingo said. 

Related: Wingo calls homeschooling arrest "unacceptable

Harris' story is being followed by Wingo who was in court Thursday. He took to Facebook with Harris' attorney Vanessa Guite to talk about the case. 

"If you in good faith put in your letter of intent, and at that point begin to homeschool your children and not send them to school, and at that point if the school is not communicating with the District, and the District is not communicating with the school, you are educationally neglecting your children," he said on Facebook live. 

County workers in court citing what Harris' lawyer Guite calls "baseless allegations" from her past as to why she shouldn't have her kids back.

"Their allegations did not rise to the level of imminent danger," Guite said.

7 Eyewitness News received the following statement from the Buffalo Public School District:

"In response to allegations that the Buffalo Public Schools improperly processed home schooling paperwork for a parent, the District asserts that those claims are inaccurate.  After investigation, it is clear that Child Protective Services was contacted prior to the district receiving a Letter of Intent from the parent to home school her children.  The District remains committed to providing necessary supports to parents and children."

The District Parent Coordinating Council for the school district is now demanding answers and held a press conference with Kiarre Harris Friday morning.

"Either speak and give us all the information or don't speak.  Don't be in the middle and make it seem like you are not responsible for the part that you played," said Samuel Radford, president of the coordinating council.

Next week, the Buffalo Common Council is expected to discuss the situation.  Kiarre Harris is scheduled to go back to court on March 15th.

In the meantime, her children have been placed in court-supervised care with the children's grandmother.