The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXV
No. 4

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The Good Die with the Bad

When the dust settled at the end of this year’s legislative session, homeschool freedom in West Virginia was safe, but no new ground was won.

A bill to restore religious freedom to the same level that existed prior to 1997 failed to emerge from committee despite vigorous lobbying efforts and your phone calls. The only way to restore religious freedom in our nation is for states to do it individually. Many have already done so. HSLDA will continue to work until West Virginia joins the others that have passed religious freedom restoration bills.

Several bills were introduced that would have increased the age of compulsory school attendance to 18. There appeared to be little enthusiasm for these bills, since neither came out of committee in the house of origin.

Two bills that would have undermined parents’ rights suffered the same fate. One, House Bill 2544, would have given grandparents almost unlimited access to visit grandchildren—even if the parents objected. If this bill had passed, it could have attracted a court challenge. A similar law in Washington State was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville.

The other bill, H.B. 2022, would have given child welfare workers the power to take children away from parents without the approval of a judge and would have created a committee with this same power. Home School Legal Defense Association Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff discussed the bill with its sponsor but could not convince him that this was a bad idea. HSLDA then sent out an e-lert, and homeschoolers’ calls to the legislature sent a powerful message that stopped the bill.

A bill was filed that would have lined up West Virginia with the vast majority of other states by allowing a religious exemption to immunization, but the provisions were so burdensome that it was worse than no exemption at all. HSLDA helped draft language that would have removed all of the outrageous features of the bill (like having to get a magistrate’s approval for the exemption!), but the revised language did not move forward before time ran out.

The most dramatic threat to homeschool freedom was H.B. 2749, which ostensibly did homeschoolers a “favor” by giving them the right to participate in public school sports programs. However, the bill demanded a serious “pound of flesh”: the elimination of a parent’s option to use a portfolio for a year-end evaluation, and the reinstitution of a nasty provision removed from the statutes several years ago that said a family must stop homeschooling if their child’s test scores were low. An HSLDA e-lert and your phone calls generated considerable media attention.

While Scott Woodruff was a radio guest on WVHU’s Tom Roten Morning Show to discuss H.B. 2749, the bill’s sponsor came on the line. After a short, impromptu public debate about the bill, the sponsor publicly announced that she no longer supported her own bill! Woodruff suspects that H.B. 2749’s sponsor did not intend to cause harm to homeschoolers, but that she did not fully understand the bill’s consequences.

Woodruff plans to work with the sponsor over the summer to draft language that would allow sports access but not harm homeschoolers. Assuming such a bill is actually filed, HSLDA will neither support nor oppose it.

Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of homeschool freedom. Your phone calls are the “roar” that makes lawmakers listen.

— by Scott A. Woodruff