Nearly 2,000 parents and children gathered inside the Capitol Building in Indianapolis on Monday, March 4, making the Parental Rights Rally the second largest in the history of the state.
As the parental rights bill came under increased attack, the Indiana Association of Home Educators and Home School Legal Defense Association worked together to quickly organize a rally for the following week.
On the day of the rally, home schooling families began arriving in Indianapolis from all over the state. The crowd in the capital spilled over from the main hall into the upper balconies and stairways, squeezing in to hear Christopher Klicka and several state legislators speak about parental rights. After the rally, children delivered stuffed animals to each legislator. Every animal wore a tag around its neck which read, "Dear Representative/Senator, My parents know best." All tags were signed by the children who donated the animals.
Although the rally was covered by many local television stations and newspapers, it was given only the barest notice in the largest Indiana paper, the Indianapolis Star, which has been running articles featuring the Indiana state Teachers Association's opposition to the PRA. Indiana parents continue to lobby their state representatives in hopes that the PRA will come up again in the next legislative session. They hope repeated positive contact will convince legislators that parents really do "know best."
[CAPTION] Several state legislators spoke on behalf of the PRA, including Rep. Padfield, Rep. Denbo, and Senator Ford. But the best advocates were the home schooled children.
[CAPTION] The parental rights rally ranked as the second largest rally in the history of the state. (And we think it's a fair guess that it ranked number one in child participation!)
[CAPTION] This stuffed animal was left on a legislator's desk by a home schooled child.
[CAPTION] Home schoolers packed the balconies of the Capitol building.
H.B. 1346: The Outcome
Indiana went on a roller-coaster ride in February and March, as home schoolers went into a pitched battle against the Indiana State Teachers' Association, Planned Parenthood, and the rest of Hillary Clinton's "village people." In November 1995, a Marion County Superior Court judge ruled that parents have no fundamental Fourteenth Amendment right to direct the secular education of their children. This ruling undercuts the constitutional basis for home schooling, and turns the right to educate children at home into a government privilege. Indiana home schools are treated as nonaccredited private schools, but this court ruling would subject that status to the whims of the legislature.
Home schoolers fought back in a massive rally at the Indiana state capitol on March 4, 1996. Close to 2,000 people gathered to ask their legislators to send a strong signal in favor of parental rights by supporting House Bill 1346. This legislation would guarantee that parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children and guarantee parents certain due process rights during child welfare investigations.
The size of the crowd set records and made a significant impact on the entire legislature. The legislature was supposed to wrap up its business some forty-eight hours after the rally, but the battle over parental rights dragged the session out for the rest of the week. Although H.B. 1346 passed, the section declaring "parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their child" was deleted. Senator Howard Luke Kenley [R-20th], who claims to be a pro-family conservative, singlehandedly forced the removal of the parental rights language. The Indiana State Teachers Association hotline message has been thanking Senator Kenley for stopping the parental rights bill.
Home School Legal Defense Association's Michael Farris, Christopher Klicka, and Scott Somerville all worked together to try to help Senator Kenley and other legislators understand the constitutional dimensions of parents' rights, and to help draft constitutionally appropriate language protecting parents' rights. Even through the parental rights language was removed from H.B. 1346, the House and Senate did pass it in an amended form. As now written, it trims back the child abuse investigations, puts some teeth in the laws against false and malicious child abuse reports, and sets up a study committee to document how parental rights are being trampled in Indiana. A special thanks goes to Representative John Padfield who led the charge for parent's rights.
The net result? "A first down, not a touchdown." Parents are better off than they were, but there is still a long way to go. The Indiana Association of Home Educators and the Home School Legal Defense Association are committed to continuing this battle—even though it will mean direct confrontations with the teachers' unions—until parents' rights are clearly recognized under Indiana law.