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A Range of Harsh Lessons

Schoolyard slurs, an incest charge and county social services shatter a black family's Kiowa dream.

"Well, these kids are in danger, and I hope the state is prepared to bear the ultimate burden, because they've taken these kids' lives into their own hands. The environment of the schoolyard is hate, which we now know can kill. To me, there's an equal-protection issue here. If a white family can home-school, why can't a black family?"

Riddle's arguments were bolstered by the Reverend Michael Shoels, who has worked with Riddle in the past and whose eighteen-year-old son, Isaiah, was the only black student killed during the Columbine shootings two years ago.

"We know firsthand the pain of losing a child to hate," Shoels said in a statement issued late last month. "The warning signs were ignored that could have saved our son's life. The Veaseys removed their children from Kiowa schools in the aftermath of Columbine after the Veasey children were subjected to racial slurs and death threats. Had we taken action as the Veaseys did, our son, Isaiah, would be alive today.

"The Veaseys retained the services of qualified tutors to conduct home schooling, like thousands of white Coloradans do," Shoels said. "When state actions deprive decent parents like Mrs. Diane Veasey and the late Reverend Earl Veasey of their children without just cause and try to force the Veasey children into public schools, then the State of Colorado is an accessory to a hate crime, and there is no equal right to home schooling."

The Veasey children's former home-school teachers also question the children's' need for a public-school education.

In a January report approved by an Advocates for Children staffer, Musell wrote that "school and academic records indicate that all of these children are either special-needs students or are educationally delayed." She recommended that all of the boys remain in foster care until they could be "interviewed and educationally evaluated."

The report fails to note that the Veasey children are the product of years of public-school education.

"I'm pretty surprised that home schooling was discontinued with them, because I really felt they needed individual attention," says Jeffries, "and my experience in the public schools is that unless a student is severely disabled, they tend not to get the attention that they need.

"I feel it is unfortunate they were placed back in public school.

"I have no way of knowing what they accomplished in [the previous year] of home schooling," Jeffries says, "but I would say because they're as far behind as they are that it didn't happen in just one year."

Both she and Mortensen object to categorizing the Veasey children as "special-ed students," and they question Musell's credentials -- which Rudden has declined to discuss.

"You think social services is supposed to help kids," Mortensen observes. "In this case, it's destroyed this family. These kids will have a lasting effect from this, and social services is to blame."

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