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West Virginia Introduces Bill to Treat Homeschooling as Child Abuse

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Published on: March 31, 2017

Democrats and Republicans in West Virginia have introduced a new bill that would treat homeschooling as child abuse and allow Child Protection Services to investigate parents who wanted to homeschool their children who had ten absences without and acceptable excuse.

The bipartisan bill, SB 528, proposed by West Virginia Senate Education Chair Kenneth Mann (R-Monroe, 10) and Democratic senators Michael Romano and Ron Stollings states, “The purpose of this bill is to establish a process for providing that a student is not eligible for either home instruction exemption once certain truancy related legal proceedings begin or after a conviction.”

The language of the bill is as follows:

A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §18-8-1b, relating to establishing process for providing that a student is not eligible for either home instruction exemption after the complaint required after ten total unexcused absences from school is filed, for the duration of legal proceedings relating to failing to cause a certain child under eighteen to attend school and at any point after conviction of the same offense; allowing investigation to determine whether the child is a neglected child due to refusal, failure or inability to supply the child with necessary education; requiring report to Department of Health and Human Resources if investigation reveals reasonable cause to suspect that the child is an abused child or a neglected child or reveals conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect; requiring that if the investigation reveals reasonable cause to suspect that the child is a neglected child due to refusal, failure or inability to supply the child with necessary education the county board of education shall hold a hearing to determine whether the home instruction would result in the child not being provided with an adequate education; and excluding application of these provisions to certain children.

The state really has no business in education, whether compulsory or any mandating of it.  Education is the role of parents (Deuteronomy 6).  As such, home education is the best place for children to learn from their parents without the state or the central government breathing down their necks.

Home School Legal Defense Association opposes the bill and its premise.

“HSLDA strongly opposes this bill and is urging our members and friends to take action to prevent this bill from moving forward in the WV legislature,” writes HSLDA Contact attorney for West Virginia Mike Donnelly.  “The bill is unnecessary because the law already provides procedures for school authorities to intervene if there are legitimate concerns regarding the home education of a child. The bill is alarming because of the statist mindset it represents that public education is presumed to be where children belong and that parents cannot be trusted with deciding when to homeschool. The bill also imposes unconstitutional burdens on the right of parents to decide how a child is educated and would create new burdens on local and state authorities.”

One problem that I saw in Donnelly’s response is that he believes parents should comply with compulsory education, though he defends their right to homeschool.

“While parents whose children are enrolled in public schools should undertake to comply with the attendance requirements, it is alarming that the state would seek to prohibit parents from exercising their fundamental rights to homeschool simply because of attendance problems at a public school,” he wrote.  “If passed, this bill would unreasonably hold some children and their families hostage in violation of both the parents’ and the children’s rights to access home education.”

I agree with his assessment and that homeschooling is a right of the parents, but the fact that parents are encouraged to “comply with the attendance requirements” undermines that right by saying it’s ok for the state to mandate such things.  If they are allowed to infringe on parents’ rights to comply with school attendance, why not infringe on those rights to keep them from homeschooling?

You see, once you allow them in just a little with mandated days your child must be educated, there is no stopping the authority they will usurp, including claiming that you are abusing your child without evidence by homeschooling them.

Donnelly does point out that  there are many parents who choose to homeschool “when anxiety, illness, or special physical or mental learning needs are present.”

“In these cases, unexcused absences are often involved due to chronic illness. Unexcused absences is an insufficient reason to interfere with a parent’s rights to homeschool,” he wrote.  “In some circumstances, it is not always possible for parents to bring a chronically ill child to get an excuse from a medical professional.  Such frequent visits can also present difficult financial challenges for lower income families.”

West Virginia, like a lot of states, have compulsory school attendance.  This was forced on many Southern states following the War of Northern Aggression by Abraham Lincoln.

Donnelly calls SB528 “an excessive and unnecessary intrusion into families.”

“It is also an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children which have been recognized in numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions,” he added.  “The mere fact that a child has accrued 10 days of allegedly unexcused absences from the public school is simply not a sufficient reason to infer parental abuse or neglect or shift the burden of proof to parents while granting approval authority over homeschooling to county boards of education.”

I agree with Mr. Donnelly.  This is a really bad bill by people who just want to control you and your children.

News Target reminds us about what this is all about.

For the schools, the real concerns over the child boil down to dollar signs. As reported by One News Now, in 2014 it was estimated that West Virginia public schools were losing nearly $12,000 of funding per student. Not willing to take such a substantial loss, that same year Ritchie County Superintendent of Schools Ed Toman forced his staff to contact the residences and places of employment of homeschool parents in an attempt to bully them into putting their children back in public schools. During the calls, parents were questioned about their ability to teach their children and asked a series of questions including, “What can we do to get your kids back in school?” Some families were also guilt-tripped when they decided to meet with school counselors at the beginning of the school year and told that their choice to homeschool could result in teachers losing their jobs.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill that went into effect May of 2016 that significantly reduced the rules imposed on homeschooled students and parents in West Virginia. As reported by the Charleston Gazette, the bill, HB 4175, no longer required annual assessment reporting for homeschool students and lowered the threshold that homeschoolers must pass on tests to achieve “acceptable progress.” Sen. Romano was opposed to that Bill and SB 528 feels a lot like a retaliation tactic against Tomblin and the homeschooling families.

Feel free to contact WV state senators, as well as Senate Education Committee chairman Kenneth Mann, to tell them not to take up this legislation. The education committee chairman can be reached at: kenny.mann@wvsenate.gov.

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