Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wretches coming after home-schoolers through the back door

At the urging of the public-school mob, Georgia legislators have quietly added provisions to propaganda (aka "schooling") guidelines in a proposed bill for this legislative session. The bill ostensively goes after "truancy" but is a subtle attempt to endanger home-schoolers -- including making us the target of any so-called do-gooder who happens to see us out with our children when they are "supposed" to be in "school." I am a member of several online home-school groups that keep a sharp eye on the shenanigans of the charlatans in the legislature. They caught this stuff and now we are emailing our legislators. If you want to see for yourself how these cagey fucks get stuff through without home-schoolers noticing, read the following excellent remarks by one of the stalwart home-schooling moms named Karen, who posted this to one of the home-school group boards (note the fines and imprisonment terms!):

Provision 1 (a) "... Any parent...having control of any child...who becomes a new resident...shall within 10 days of new residency enroll such child in a ....home study program. Failure to enroll such child ...within 10 days shall constitute a violation of the code section."

(Karen)-- The bill specifically refers to enrolling students in a home study program, within 10 days. Parents who miss the deadline have violated the law.

1 (b) "...approved absences as provided for the local board of education shall be excused absences."

(Karen)-- This grants the local school board - not the parent - authority to determine what constitutes an excused absence. This opens the door - the floodgates, really - to the local school district. If I decide to spend the day hiking with my kids, and an unfriendly person the local school district decides it not an excused absence, it can be counted against me. Not a good thing. There have been many instances over the years where homeschool parents have encountered unfriendly people at their local school districts. There have been many stories over the years of schools officials telling parents that they must file a withdrawal form when pulling their kids out of school to homeschool. This is not required by law. There have been many instances where reps from boards of education have stated verbally and in writing to homeschool parents that certain information was required to be submitted to them by law, information not required under the law.

1 (d) (1) "Local school system officials may make and file a report to the appropriate enforcement agency regarding any parent...having control or charge of any child...subject to mandatory attendance requirements ...who have accumulated 15 days of unexcused absences. Any person required to make a report ...who knowingly and willfully fails to do so shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

(Karen)-- This bill REQUIRES school systems and county school boards to turn in families for SUSPECTED truancy. It makes them - the school system and school officials - guilty of a crime if they don't. This will lead to massive over reporting. The courts will be full of parents reported by school officials.

1 (d) (2) Local school system officials OR OTHER PERSONS (emphasis mine) may make and file a report to the appropriate enforcement agency regarding any parent...having control or charge of any child...subject to mandatory attendance requirements ...whose children are not regularly attending school."

(Karen)-- This allows ANYBODY to file a report against anybody they think is not attending school. If my neighbor doesn't agree with the way I am homeschooling my kids, he or she can turn me in. Not a good thing.This is reminiscent of China's "one child" policy. Citizens are encouraged to rat on their neighbors if they suspect that their neighbor has more than one child. Violators are subject to all kinds of penalties, including less desirable housing, or even losing your job. Chinese orphanages are full of girl children because of this policy. (I digress...) The courts will be full of parents being reported by neighbors and school officials.

1 (e) "No case shall constitute a violation of this code section unless said child has accumulated five or more days of unexcused absences. Each days absence...after...(notification of) the five consecutive days of absence...shall constitute a separate offense."

(Karen)-- This opens the door for schools to automatically report kids truant immediately after notifying parents - IT REQUIRES THEM TO. They will be hyper-vigilant about compliance. More over-reporting and more overloaded courts. It also opens the door for local school systems to file charges against homeschooling parents who do not file attendance forms within 5 days of the first day of the month.

1 (g) (1) "Any parent... who shall fail to send such child (to a) home study program... shall be guilty of a misdemeanor...subject to a fine of not less than $25 and not greater than $100, imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, community service..."

(Karen)-- There is an automatic penalty for not meeting the 5 day requirement.

1 (h) "Nothing in this code section shall be construed to authorize the state board of education, local boards of education or any officers thereof or appropriate enforcement agencies to impose any additional requirements on ...home study programs beyond that specifically included in subsection (a) of this code section and in code section 20-2-690."

(Karen)-- Section 20-2-690 deals with reporting requirements, subject areas, and testing requirements - for parents. The language of SB 239 does not add any additional reporting requirements on the part of the parents. It does open the door for local school systems - not just opens the door , they are REQUIRED - to report cases of 5 unexcused absences. If a parent is ill and is late in getting in an attendance form, this could be interpreted as an unexcused absence. If a parent pulls their child out of school and does not file an attendance form right way, this could be interpreted as an unexcused absence. The authority to determine unexcused absence lies with the school system, school systems who have routinely told homeschoolers that certain information was required by law that really wasn't. In many cases these folks have not been warm and fuzzy, and didn't take too kindly to having the law pointed out to them. This bill gives wide latitude - TOTAL DISCRETION - to principals, superintendents, staff of offices of homeschooling record keeping, to make life miserable for homeschooling families. It will mandate CRIMINAL investigations on parents.

Regarding my points from a previous post -- The bill will negatively impact the parents of the over 40,000 homeschool students in Georgia. There are currently no statutory penalties for not turning in reporting forms. This bill creates statutory penalties for being 5 days late, or withdrawing your kid from school and not getting the forms in within 5 days. It does not require ADDITIONAL reporting on the part of parents -- it does require MANDATORY REPORTING on the part of school systems if they suspect truancy. It will create criminals out of homeschool parents. Parents who move and don't file the forms on time have automatically violated the law. Those who are late due to illness or that of a family member are automatically guilty of a crime, by virtue of the fact that they have not filed a form. There is no opportunity to allow a judge to use discretion, as is the case now under current law. There are currently no proscribed criminal penalties for homeschoolers who do not file forms on time. Current law already provides for enrollment and attendance reporting requirements for homeschoolers.

Current law provides for parents to choose their own school year beginning and ending dates. If a parent schools on a calendar year that is not in line with the local school calendar, the student can be designated as truant under the discretion of the local school system. Homeschoolers should be exempt from this bill. Reporting requirements are already addressed in the current homeschool statute.

The bill has already gone through committee and it is too late to attach any exemption for homeschoolers. Here are some facts. It will lead to criminal charges and jail time for homeschool parents. (See above) It mandates a criminal investigation of all reports of a perceived violation. It requires that any violation must be prosecuted and the parent will be be fined and may be imprisoned for up to 30 days. It will expand the reach of local school systems into homeschooling families - school systems these families have chosen to leave. It gives an incredible amount of power to local schools and school systems to intrude in the lives of homeschoolers. Many such attempts have been made in the past in the form of demands for information not required under the law. Because we have been able to point to the law, many unpleasant experiences have been avoided. It will lead to anger and confusion. It will clog the courts.

I repeat - this is a dangerous bill. The danger lies in the idea that it includes language that says it does not impose additional requirements - ON PARENTS. They don't have to report anything new, they just have to report earlier - 10 days instead of 30.The new requirements mandated by the bill relate to required action on the part of the SCHOOL SYSTEMS and its EMPLOYEES under penalty of law. This bill grants broad new powers to school systems, and automatically imposes convictions and penalties on parents who in the eyes of the local school system have kids with at least 5 unexcused absences. Please do not think that this will not be used in this way - at some point it will.

I cannot overemphasize how important this point is. When the law grants power, the power is eventually used. And often in ways it was never intended to be used. This bill allows school system employees to determine what constitutes unexcused absences. IT WILL BE USED at some point against homeschoolers. Maybe not next year or the following year, but at some point it will be used. This is exactly what happened with joint enrollment. University system policy had stringent requirements for joint enrollment, and allowed individual institutions to grant exceptions. For 10 years homeschoolers rocked along, with many being admitted into joint enrollment without third party oversight - 3PO. Then 2 years ago we began hearing that schools that used to permit joint enrollment without 3PO under their exceptions were no longer doing it. The admissions people just pointed to the policy, which allowed them to do what they were doing. Some admissions people realized the unfair nature of the policy, and couldn't understand why it was being enforced so stringently. They even went to bat for individual students - they requested exceptions to the policy. But none were granted. No reason was ever given by anybody - either at the university admissions level, or Board of Regents staff level - as to why the practice was changed. All anybody ever did was to point to the policy.

This is what will happen if this bill is passed. Any law that allows those who are unfriendly to homeschoolers to wield power will eventually be used against us, just like the joint enrollment policy was used. And they will just point to the law, no matter how crazy the law seems. About 12 years ago many citizens opposed the extension of GA 400 between I 285 and I 85. One of the concerns was that the toll booths would be used as a perpetual money collection system. Those who supported the road assured citizens that the toll would only be used to cover the cost of the road, and that the statute establishing the authority to collect the toll had an automatic drop dead date - it would automatically expire and the toll would go away.

Fast forward 10 years. Immediately before the automatic expiration date the statute was quietly amended. Tolls continue to be collected, years after the road has been paid for. Very few people remember that the toll was supposed to go away after the road was paid for. Power granted by law will be used, many times in ways that were originally unintended. I repeat - this is a dangerous bill. Homeschoolers should be completely exempt from all its provisions. Since it is too late to add an exemption, the bill should be defeated. Please urge your senators and representatives to oppose this bill. It will be a sad, sad day if homeschool families in Georgia are criminalized years from now because we failed to act today.

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