Eternal vigilance is freedom's price
Although the right to home school was recognized by the Texas Supreme Court in 1994, home schoolers continue to face unlawful demands from public school officials and challenges to parental rights from the legislature.
Police serve family with questionnaire
In May, Mr. and Mrs. M received a letter from the Houston Police Department, requiring them to fill out an Exemption Questionnaire informing the department what educational option they had chosen. Among other things, the questionnaire requested the name of the curriculum suppliers the family used and copies of the children's most recent standardized test scores.
According to Texas law, home schools operate as private schools. When contacted by public school officials inquiring about compliance with the compulsory attendance law, home educating parents need only respond by assuring the local public school officials that the home school meets these requirements. This procedure for verifying legal status is also recognized by the Texas Education Agency.
Home School Legal Defense Association quickly faxed a letter to the police department and followed up with a telephone call, assuring that Mr. and Mrs. M were in full compliance with the law. The department took no further action against Mr. and Mrs. M.
Child released from juvenile detention
HSLDA received an emergency call from a distraught New Braunfels mother whose 11-year-old son's health needs had created tension with the local public school. He had 52 absent days from the public school and had been placed in juvenile detention.
On May 22, HSLDA attorney Tom Sanders represented the family in court. Although the district attorney had planned to keep the boy in juvenile detention until July 9, HSLDA persuaded both the district attorney and the judge that the best thing for this child was to be released to his mother where she could continue his schooling at home, thereby meeting both his academic and his health needs.
Texas legislative roundup
Now that the last state legislator has ridden home and the dust has settled in Austin, we can breathe a sigh of relief and thanksgiving—home school freedoms are safe for another year. During the legislative session, HSLDA Legislative Counsel Tom Sanders spent many hours each week lobbying on these bills and coordinating strategy with HSLDA's national office.
We want to specifically thank all our members who received and responded to our Texas Weekly Update e-mails and urgent e-lerts. Your quick action and calls made the difference in killing several harmful bills. (If you are an HSLDA member and are not receiving HSLDA's e-lerts and legal updates, please sign up for them on our website at http://members.hslda.org/elert or by calling us at 540.338.5600.)
HSLDA monitored over 25 bills in the Texas Legislature this year. Here is a brief report on several.
Initially, Senate Bill 1237 and House Bill 1702 would have allowed parents to decline immunizations for their children based on philosophical objections. The current exemption applies only to parents who belong to a recognized church whose tenets conflict tions. HSLDA periodically represents members who are investiated by Texas Child Protective Services for not having their children immunized. We believe vaccinations should be a parent's choice.
HSLDA testified before the Texas legislature in support of these bills and many home schoolers called and attended the hearings. The House version retained the philosophical exemption, but the bill died in the House Public Health Committee. Meanwhile, the Senate Health Services Committee removed the philosophical exemption from S.B. 1237 and HSLDA was forced to oppose the same bill we had once supported. S.B. 1237 was eventually killed.
In the next legislative session, HSLDA will work with Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education (PROVE) to pass the philosophical exemption from immunization.
Ending college discrimination
Disregarding many phone calls in favor of H.B. 286, the House Calendars Committee allowed the bill to die in committee. This bill would have ended discrimination against home schoolers seeking admission into Texas universities that receive public funds.
Nonetheless, HSLDA continues to work with Texas universities on an individual basis and has persuaded several to voluntarily remove inequitable admissions requirements for home school graduates. For more information on college admission standards, visit http://www.hslda. org/docs/nche/Issues/C/College.asp.
Parent-taught driver education
Parent-taught driver education is an option preferred by many home school parents. Although this option is legal in Texas, H.B. 454 turned out to be a backdoor attempt to deter families from choosing parent-taught driver education.
Working with Wayne Tulley of the National Driver Training Institute, HSLDA contacted the bill sponsor, Representative Joe Driver, to voice opposition to the bill. Many home schoolers also called the legislature.
In response, Representative Driver withdrew his bill. When HSLDA asked why, Driver's staff said, "The representative did not realize what he was getting into. He did not think there would be so much opposition. A lot of home schoolers called—and the representative heard them!"
On the table for next year
Some of the worst legal conflicts HSLDA faces involve Child Protection Services (CPS) investigating anonymous tips concerning member home school families. Although HSLDA is generally able to keep CPS workers out of the home and away from the children, Texas Welfare Code needs major reform.
HSLDA has located several legislators who are ready to help introduce child welfare reform legislation in the next session. These measures will protect parents' rights during a CPS investigation.
We are also working with The Family Bill of Rights Foundation established by Gary Gates, a father whose 11 children were wrongly removed by the CPS and later returned. Attorney Tom Sanders is handling his suit against CPS. HSLDA helped collect over 1000 of the 6000 signatures on Gates's Family Bill of Rights petition. Since the Gates family's traumatic experience with CPS, they have started home schooling and joined HSLDA. — Christopher J. Klicka