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MAY / JUNE 1999
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Cover Story
Does One Size Really Fit All?

Special Features
Hard Work and Prayer Make David Beihl the Best He Can Be

A New Strategy on RLPA

Strings Attached to Vouchers Weave an Entangling Web

National Center Reports
Ed Flex Act Passes Congress

Pending Matters: Your Call Counts

Light Within Congress

Weyrich Letter Makes Waves

Across the States
State by State

Regular Features
Press Clippings

Active Cases

Prayer and Praise

A Contrario Sensu

President’s Page

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Tidbits & Trivia

World’s first electric trolley system.


Barrage of
Compulsory Ed Bills

    Current Alabama law requires children between the ages of 7 and 16 to attend school. Apparently this is of great concern to a number of legislators because this year no fewer than five bills have been introduced which attempt to expand the compulsory attendance ages. In summary:

  • House Bill 217, sponsored by Representative Joseph Mitchell (D-103), would increase the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18.
  • H.B. 135, sponsored by Representative Thomas Jackson (D-68) and 23 other members of the House of Representatives, would also mandate attendance through age 18.
  • H.B. 362, introduced by Representative Michael Millican (D-17), would raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18. However, Millican’s bill would allow a child over 16 to drop out of school with the consent of his parents.
  • S.B. 213, introduced by Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-18), would lower the compulsory attendance age from seven to five and raise it from 16 to 18.
  • S.B. 218, also introduced by Smitherman, requires that any child enrolled in school be subject to the compulsory attendance law, even a child who is not yet seven years old. This would appear to prohibit a parent from withdrawing a child from school while the child is still under age seven if the parent decides that the child is not ready for school.
    Home School Legal Defense Association opposes each of these bills. S.B. 218 in particular should be opposed or amended to allow an exception for parents who want to withdraw their under-compulsory-age children from school.

Fingerprinting Teachers
    Another pending bill, H.B. 402, the Alabama Child Protection Act of 1999, targets school employees who have unsupervised access to students. Both potential and current employees of public and nonpublic schools—including church schools—who fit this category must undergo a criminal background investigation before being eligible for employment. School administrators must be trained in fingerprinting, must fingerprint each employee, and must submit the fingerprints to the department of public safety to initiate the investigation. A person who has been convicted of any crime of child abuse would be ineligible for employment, as determined by the state superintendent of instruction. While this bill contains a provision that parents engaged in the home schooling of their children are specifically excluded from the provisions of this act, this law would still apply to employees of the church school who had unsupervised contact with students. Church schools with co-op arrangements, sports teams coached by parents, and administrators of the church school who come into unsupervised contact with students (such as riding in an automobile with them) would all be subject to this law if those in charge are being paid by the church school for their work.
    HSLDA believes that H.B. 402 should be opposed for the following reasons: (1) church schools in Alabama are presently free from state regulation, but this law would involve the state in deciding who is qualified to teach in a church school; (2) there is no indication that there is a problem with church schools in Alabama which would warrant this type of legislation to protect children; and (3) this bill would put church school administrators in the business of acting as an agent for the state in fingerprinting applicants and employees, a serious invasion of privacy of the individual.