Litigation avoided in Dixon
In January, an anonymous caller made an allegation of educational neglect against a Home School Legal Defense Association member to the Lee/Ogle schools regional office superintendent. However, our member, a single mother, was diligently teaching her sons at home, and we quickly helped the superintendent resolve the matter.
Four months later, the superintendent received several more calls (probably from the original caller) questioning this family's home school program. The superintendent contacted the district attorney and threatened legal action against the mother.
HSLDA hired local attorney Richard Baker to help represent our member at an informal hearing with the superintendent and district attorney. We made it clear that the law does not require such meetings and that our member family had already met the requirements under the Levison precedent set by the Illinois Supreme Court and was in compliance with the law. The superintendent concluded that the children were receiving a sufficient education and also promised in writing that "no further referrals for truancy will be pursued." By God's grace, the family has been able to continue home schooling without further harassment.
A stormy legislative season
An attempt to lower the state compulsory attendance age was defeated, largely due to calls from home schoolers. Introduced by Representative Douglas Scott, House Bill 795 would have lowered the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 6. In response to the initial expressions of concern from home schoolers, Representative Scott addressed his fellow legislators from the House floor, assuring them that the bill would not affect home schoolers. Propelled by that assertion, H.B. 795 sailed through the House, 94 to 19.
By the time H.B. 795 reached the Senate, HSLDA had sent out three alerts to our members and senators were well aware of Illinois home schooler's opposition to H.B. 795. Fran Eaton, director of Eagle Forum, circulated among the senators the letter HSLDA had sent to Representative Scott which clearly demonstrated that home schoolers would be affected by the bill and were vigorously opposed to it. Thankfully, H.B. 795 died in the Senate Rules Committee.
A positive highlight of the legislative session was the passage of Senate Bill 1305, which will prevent the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) from investigating and harassing families who choose not to give their children immunizations. HSLDA regularly represents member families who have been turned in to DCFS by nurses and doctors for possible neglect, simply because the parents exercised their constitutional and statutory right to not vaccinate their children. S.B. 1305 protects parents who choose not to vaccinate based on religious convictions. S.B. 1305 passed the Senate on April 4, passed the House unanimously on May 17, and was signed by Governor George Ryan on June 20, 2001.
— Christopher J. Klicka