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South Dakota

January 27, 2006

An Act which Allows a Judge to "Approve" a Homeschool Program

Sponsor:
Senators Knudson, Koskan, Moore, and Sutton (Dan) and Representatives Cutler, Deadrick, Gillespie, Haley, Hargens, Hennies, McLaughlin, Pederson (Gordon), Rounds, Wick, and Willadsen.

Summary:
Bill mandates that if a child is subject to a pending truancy petition, or the child's parent is being prosecuted for failing to send the child to school, the application for waiver of compulsory attendance pursuant to 13-27-2 shall be referred to the court that has jurisdiction over the truancy petition or prosecution for final determination.

The bill was killed in the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 4-3.

Status:

01/19/2006First Read In Senate And Referred To Senate Education Committee
01/26/2006 Scheduled For Committee Hearing before the Senate Education Committee, 7:45 AM, Room 423. Committee voted to defer the bill to the 36th Legislative Day by a vote of 4-3. This effectively killed the bill.

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose.

Action Requested:
No more action is necessary.

Background:
1. The U.S. Constitution prohibits a person from being punished before a fair trial. A person who has been accused of a crime is presumed innocent. It is unconstitutional to take away someone's freedom while they are still presumed innocent.

2. After a fair trial, if a person is actually found guilty of failing to send his child to school, the judge under current law has all the power he needs to make sure the person obeys the law in the future. The judge can impose significant fines and imprisonment. No new law is necessary.

3. S.B. 110 does not treat all families accused of truancy equally. If two accused parents decide to take their children out of a public school that is failing their children and put them in another educational setting, the parent who wants to put his child in a private school has an unfettered right. The parent who wants to provide alternative instruction does not. The judge is not allowed to substitute his own opinion for the parent's in the first case, but he would be in the second case. Therefore, S.B. 110 is discriminatory.

4. When a child misses many school days, there is always a reason. It may be prolonged illness, threats by bullies, intimidation, or humiliation by a teacher, ostracism by fellow students, unmet needs, or chronic feelings of failure or helplessness. These children may feel they are being forced into an education that simply does not fit them. With homeschooling, the education can be tailor-made to fit the child perfectly. It is heartless to give a judge power to prevent a student from homeschooling when the parents know it is his very best hope for a successful education.

5. It is bad policy to focus on truancy, which is a symptom, rather than on the underlying causes. Truancy is only a problem when a child hates the kind of education he's receiving. In contrast, truancy is essentially non-existent among homeschool and private school students.

6. If schools are given the power to prevent a child from starting a homeschool program, it is easy to envision this power being abused. School districts fearful of losing funds through shrinking enrollment might be quick to use this new power to prevent more students from leaving. New powers are often used in unexpected ways.

7. Some families decide to homeschool after conflicts with school administrators who often help parents conclude that the public system is not best for their child. These conflicts sometimes bring threats of truancy charges. All these families might lose their right to homeschool under S.B. 110.


 Other Resources

Jan.-23-2006—South Dakota—Unconstitutional Plan to Restrict Homeschool Freedom

Jan.-25-2006—South Dakota—Calls Needed to Protect Homeschool Freedom

Jan.-26-2006—South Dakota—Dangerous Bill Defeated

Bill Text

Bill History