Curtailing the freedom of hundreds of home school families because of a problem that occurs rarely, if at all, is tantamount to swatting a fly with a sledgehammer. State Representative Thomas Hennies's House Bill 1181 would have required all home school families (except those moving into the district during the school year) to file their alternative instruction paperwork 30 days before starting to home school.
If a family decided to home school their children on September 1, H.B. 1181 would have made it unlawful to begin home schooling the children until October 1. Furthermore, the family would have been required to file the alternative instruction paperwork every year, 30 days before the beginning of the home school year.
Representative Hennies defended this attack on home school liberty by explaining his concern that, in a small number of cases, parents yank their children from public school in anger at a school's disciplinary measures. Although these parents ostensibly intend to home school, Hennies said, they soon cool down and return the children, now academically behind, to public school. Representative Hennies did not provide any details-dates, names, or locations of any individuals involved-to allow independent verification of these anecdotes. Nor did he supply any evidence to document the number of times this has occurred in South Dakota. But he still felt it necessary to force all home schooling families to submit to a 30-day "cooling-off" period aimed at keeping a mere handful of children in school until their parents simmer down.
Although Hennies' bill sailed through the House Education Committee and a House floor vote, it ran into massive opposition from home school and private school families in the Senate Education Committee. Many organizations across the state mobilized to oppose this bill, and it died in the Senate committee.
Only a tiny handful of states have any sort of waiting period before a home school program can be initiated. Thanks to the phone calls, e-mails, and the testimony of many dedicated South Dakota home schoolers, the
right to home school one's children was protected from this
legislative bruising. — Scott A. Woodruff