Truancy enforcement legislation considered
House Bill 2650 and Senate Bill 2145 would extend the provisions for truancy enforcement agreements to all counties in Tennessee, not just those with a population above 800,000 (Shelby County only). Representative Brenda Turner is the sponsor for H.B. 2650, and Senator Ward Crutchfield is the sponsor for S.B. 2145. These bills mandate that local school districts provide a list of truant students to a local law enforcement agency, which will then find the truants and take them into custody. The law includes an exemption for students enrolled in home or non-public schools, but this exemption is insufficient to protect these students from being stopped and detained by police officers. Since the officers will not know what the truant students look like, the practical effect is that every person who appears to be of school age will be stopped, detained, and required to convince the officer that he is not a student on the truant list.
In Home School Legal Defense Association's opinion, there are significant constitutional concerns that warrant a defeat of this proposed legislation. First, the bills violate the search-and-seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits detentions without reasonable suspicion. Second, the bills violate the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, which the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized as a "fundamental" right. If S.B. 2145 and H.B. 2650 are passed, children throughout Tennessee will be forced to repeatedly explain themselves to the police just because their parents have exercised their constitutional liberty to choose private education.
H.B. 2650 is currently in the House Education Committee, while S.B. 2145 has passed the Senate Education Committee and is ready for a full Senate vote. HSLDA opposes this legislation and asks that home schooling families contact their state legislators and express their opposition to these proposals.
- Dewitt T. Black