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MAY / JUNE 2001
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Sex offender bill passes legislature

Introduced by Senator Jodie Mahony of El Dorado, and passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Senate Bill 758 would prohibit a child from being home schooled if anyone in the home is required to register with the state as a convicted sex offender. This law would not apply, however, if the child to be home schooled is the person required to be registered as the sex offender. Additionally, this restriction may be waived if a child's parent or guardian successfully petitions the court that originally sentenced the offender.

Parents have the fundamental right under the United States Constitution to direct the education of their children, including the right to teach them at home. This right should not be denied a parent in the absence of a judicial determination that the child will suffer harm by being instructed by the parent. A parent previously convicted and punished for a sex offense may be determined by the judicial system to be entitled to return to live with his family and to have unrestricted contact with family members. However, under Senate Bill 758, although this parent could reside in the same house with his family, travel with his family, and engage in every other aspect of family life, this parent could not educate his children without getting permission to do so. This parent could be denied this fundamental constitutional right even though the courts had determined that he could rejoin society and his family with no other restrictions.

Home School Legal Defense Association is not sympathetic toward sex offenders, especially those who prey on children. Those who harm the most vulnerable members of society deserve the severest penalty under the law. While this legislation may be well-intentioned, HSLDA believes it unreasonably restricts the educational choices of parents desiring to teach their children at home.

If this legislation is signed by the governor, Arkansas will become the only state in the nation to have a law with this type of restriction on home schooling. Pennsylvania prohibits a family from home schooling if any adult living in the home has been convicted of certain criminal offenses within the past five years. Unless the court grants a waiver, Arkansas' proposed prohibition would remain in effect no matter how long it had been since the criminal conviction.

Dewitt T. Black