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Visalia's Daytime Curfew Battle

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L E G A L   N E W S

Visalia's Daytime Curfew Battle

by William Yoshimoto

DAYTIME CURFEW LAWS are the new fad legislation sweeping through communities in state after state. Citizens are frustrated with the rising crime rates among youths. Reports of gang activities expanding from the inner-cities into the suburbs add to the concern and strengthen the determination to solve this problem. However, HSLDA opposes daytime curfews on constitutional grounds.

Additionally, the daytime curfew "solution" is no solution at all as far as home schoolers are concerned. One of the benefits of home schooling is scheduling flexibility. Families are able to adapt their daily schedule to meet their needs. But once daytime curfew legislation is enacted, trips to the library, to music lessons, and even field trips that occur during public school hours fall under the scrutiny of police and truant officers.

Home School Legal Defense Association has assisted home schoolers in a number of states to attempt to defeat daytime curfew proposals. In August, we sent an alert to all of our members in Orange County, California, advising of the impending curfew threat for all of the county's 32 municipalities. Our thanks go out to the home schoolers who have taken up the effort to preserve freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.

The following article, written by William Yoshimoto, describes how home schoolers and other concerned citizens in Visalia, California, approached their daytime curfew battle.

William Yoshimoto is a home schooling father and Assistant District Attorney for Tulare County.

The proposed daytime curfew for the City of Visalia was defeated in a 5 to 0 vote by the city council. Early on in this battle, it was surmised that 3 members of the city council would approve the ordinance. Thus, by any measure, this is a significant victory. But before we assess or accept credit let us analyze what truly happened. Let any doubt be erased, God brought the victory, prayers were answered, and we were "delivered" from possible oppression and from further erosion of our Constitutional rights because His will was honored and His instructions acted upon. I submit for your consideration what took place, although not specifically articulated, was Micah 6:8 in action. This verse calls us to, "Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the Lord your God."

Having been warned at the annual Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California Convention in July by our fellow Christian home educators in Orange County and Mike Smith of Home School Legal Defense Association, several of us kept a watchful eye for a proposal to enact a daytime curfew. Within a month, the Visalia Unified School District in conjunction with the Tulare County Probation Department, without any public notice, submitted a plan to the city council for a daytime curfew entitled Project AIM (Attendance Is Mandatory). In God's providence, the local newspaper learned of the project and ran an article alerting us to the proposal. In a spirit of prayer we began to build our effort to oppose the daytime curfew. The local phone tree was activated and a meeting quickly scheduled.

Several ISP leaders met together along with other home schoolers. God anointed one couple to serve as the focal point for our efforts. Immediately God was acknowledged as being in control and His wisdom sought. Daytime curfews spread a broad net that captures everyone. A student, whether in home school, private school, or on an alternative public education schedule would be caught in this net. Persons legitimately attending a community college although under 18 would be subject to daytime curfew laws. For the sake of addressing a small population of truants, a large group of innocent children would be made to suffer. This is not justice, and God calls us to do justice. The initial point of our strategy was to not make this a home school issue, but one of justice for all.

Second, we are called to love kindness. Kindness is expressed in action. The second point was to convey our love of children and community. We wanted to see the needs of truants addressed as well as the needs of our community. Furthermore, in presenting our opposition, we at all times would be polite, courteous, open to listening to and respectful of those in governmental service and positions of decision making authority.

Thirdly, we must walk humbly with God. Acknowledging God at all times is paramount. Recognizing our limitations was essential and dependence upon the Holy Spirit critical. All this coupled with the attitude that we would not take a superior moral attitude nor would we denigrate others opposed to us, for Jesus also died for them. We would offer suggestions, not demands. We should offer alternatives to a curfew and a plan to meet together as a community to discuss and implement solutions to the problem.

God quickly honored our obedience to His command. In our group were persons skilled in political action, community networking, and interacting with the city council. He brought to our group people who were not home educators but equally concerned about the loss of God inspired personal liberty. A presentation was crafted to reflect our tri-part strategy of honoring God. Speakers were selected to address issues of justice for all, of loving children and community, and of alternatives to the ordinance expressed in humility. Public awareness was targeted through letters to the editor, guest editorials and interviews with news programs. A letter writing/phone campaign embodying our strategy was put into action with prayer as the bottom line. Many letters and calls came to city hall in opposition. Virtually none in support of Project AIM.

On September 3, 1996, the city council meeting, designated as the public hearing on the proposed curfew, took place. The Chief of Police with his lieutenant, the Chief Probation Officer with several juvenile probation officers, the Assistant Superintendent of the school district with school district truancy workers, a high school principal, a middle school principal, a middle school vice principal, and a downtown businessman came as a group to present the AIM program. With many home schoolers in attendance, our committee appeared to offer our opposition. Again, God honored His children's strategy. A retired high school teacher, a man who was just there out of principle, an extremely politically active and well thought of woman whose son attended the Private Institutional Christian High School, a woman with a daughter in public high school, a physician, a deputy District Attorney, a city planner, and a man whose son was a late bloomer who would have been branded no-good by this law if enacted when he was of the target age all came to speak on behalf of justice and kindness. A broad-based community group had appeared at the city council meeting to oppose enactment. Some were part of our committee and some just came. We had found favor in the sight of God and man.

In voting against the proposal, each member of the city council remarked on the broad representation of the community we had in opposition to the curfew in stark contrast to the narrow perspective offered by the proponents. The council was impressed by our desire to protect freedom and secure justice for all. Several stated the proposed ordinance was just too broad and did not want to see the erosion of our cherished Constitutional rights. The mayor admired our effort to present alternatives that expressed great concern for the welfare of the truant, the community, and our children in general. She remarked at our effort to reflect the community's diversity. And finally, all council members offered sincere admiration and thankfulness for the courtesy, respect, and deference given by all of us to them as a city council and to our opponents. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.

Along the way, God intervened in many ways and perhaps in many more unknown ways. I am convinced that God was given the freedom to act because His Word and will were put into action. This is not to say that we are so righteous in Visalia. It is to say God was powerful and faithful to His Word. We offer Micah 6:8 as a model strategy in the battle against daytime curfews.

We thank our Lord Jesus Christ, Mike Smith, Chris Klicka, and Sean Dunn of HSLDA, Robyn Nordell of Orange County, Jim Davis and Roy Hanson in Sacramento, Heikas and Melinda Martirosian in Visalia, and all who prayed for us.