To Supply or Not to Supply? The Ongoing Debate About Social Security Numbers
Does an individual have to provide his/her social security number to a private organization upon request? While the answer to that question is "NO," refusal to provide the number will probably preclude participation in whatever service the requesting organization provides. There is no federal code restricting the use of the social security number by private organizations. However, there have been a few cases where the courts have restricted its use and given alternatives to plaintiffs who have sued private organizations over the use of the social security number.
If the private organization is operating, in some respects, as a governmental agency or quasi-governmental agency, one can argue that the Privacy Act of 1974 would preclude the denial of services simply because an individual failed to provide the social security number.
The simple conclusion is that most private organizations will back down from their requirement to have your number if faced with the threat of a lawsuit.
What rights do individuals have when the request is made by federal, state or local governmental agencies, i.e., a home school law that requires a parent's and/or child's social security number on the notification form? The Privacy Act of 1974 provides that it is unlawful for any federal, state or local government to deny any individual a right, benefit or privilege provided by law because of an individual's failure or refusal to disclose their social security number, with the following exceptions:
1. If the disclosure is required by the federal statutes; or
2. If the disclosure by any federal, state or local agency existed prior to January 1, 1975 either by practice or enactment of statute or regulation adopted prior to January 1, 1975.
Any federal, state or local government agency which requests an individual to disclose a social security number shall inform the individual whether that disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, and by what statutory or other authority the number is solicited.
Even where the state or local government has statutory authority to require the social security number, a court may determine that this authority can be abused, as happened in a voter registration case in Virginia (Greidinger, 99/88 F.2d at 1352, 1353). In this case, the court concluded that where the social security number could be demonstrated to be used for purposes other than identification for voter registration, i.e., selling the list to commercial organizations, the use could be prohibited.
Newly available from HSLDA is a six-page legal memo explaining additional details about these questions. You may obtain one by simply mailing a request, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to HSLDA, P.O. Box 159, Paeonian Springs, VA 22129.
National Results from Canadian Survey Corroborate American Home School Statistics
On July 5, 1994, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) released the most comprehensive report to date with a focus on Canada. Entitled A Nationwide Study of Home Education in Canada: Family Characteristics, Student Achievement, and Other Topics, the study examines demographics, motivation, and educational results experienced by families who bypass traditional schooling options to teach their children in the home environment.
Within the 808 home-educating families surveyed, the findings indicate that the parents generally have had more formal education than the national average. Family income is somewhat lower than for similar families in Canada, and two-parent families are the norm. Home schoolers have notably more children than the average Canadian family. While the families are predominantly Christian in worldview, a wide variety of religious preferences are evident.
The average age of the children in these home-educating families is just over nine years, and they have had little experience in public or private schools. The social activities of the children are quite varied, with the large majority experiencing significant activities with peers and adults outside of their families.
On standardized achievement tests, the home-schooled students performed at or above the 76th percentile on national norms in terms of their reading, listening, language, math, science, social studies, basic battery, and complete battery scores. Many factors were examined for their relationship to the students' academic performance; only a few are significant. Educational attainment of the fathers is a weak predictor of reading and language scores, and the longer a child has been home educated, the better his language score.
Home education is rapidly reemerging in developed nations around the world, and Canada is no exception. During the past 15 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of parents who have decided to be the primary educators in their children's lives rather than send them to schools to be taught by other adults. Estimates for the 1993-1994 academic year indicate that 15,000 to 60,000 school-aged children were home educated in Canada.
While home-educating parents are enthusiastic about their ability provide a solid academic and moral education for their children, others (e.g., teachers' unions and some government education officials) denounce home education. Conclusions drawn in this Canadian study corroborate statistics gleaned in 1990 for the most extensive nationwide study completed for the United States-that is, home schoolers are doing well enough to be left alone in terms of regulatory requirements imposed by government!
Study Concludes That Home Education Benefits Learning Disabled Children
Active involvement in lessons usually brings about academic gains for children. Educators call this active engagement AET, or "academic engaged time." It includes such learning activities as reading, writing, talking about the content of a lesson, or task participation. In a study entitled The Effects of Home Education on Children with Learning Disabilities (released August 30, 1994), researcher Steven F. Duvall, Ph.D., compared the AET rates that occurred in home schools with those in public school special education settings to determine their relationship to academic gains for learning disabled children.
Dr. Duvall comments that since those school settings which "provide generous instead of meager AET enable students with learning disabilities (LD) to make greater academic gains, it seems likely that higher AET rates would occur in settings that involved fewer pupils. One instructional setting that may have both low student numbers and high AET is the home school."
Examining eight elementary and two junior high students with learning disabilities, Dr. Duvall's study was carried out in home schools and special education programs during the 1993-1994 school year. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent to which parents who were not certified special educators provided LD students with instructional environments that facilitated the acquisition of basic skills. Specifically, the purpose was to analyze and compare the time that students were actively involved in academics in home schools and special education, and determine its relationship to academic gains over time.
Home school students were matched with public school students according to grade-level, sex, IQ, and area of disability. One group included five students who received instruction at home while the other involved five students who attended public schools. A computer software program for classroom observations was used to record and analyze students' academic engaged time during instructional periods, and standardized achievement tests were administered to measure gains in reading math, and written language.
Results indicated that home school students were academically engaged about 1.5 times as often as public school students. Furthermore, home school students averaged six months gain in reading compared to one-half month by public school students, and eight months gain in written language compared to less than 2.5 months for public school students. Both home and public school students averaged 13 months gain in math.
The bottom line will come as no surprise to home educators everywhere: Even though they are not certified teachers, parents can create instructional environments at home that assist students with learning disabilities to improve their academic skills-and very effectively, too!
[CAPTION] Dr. Steven F. Duvall studied how learning disabled children fare in the home school environment as compared to public schools