Home Schoolers Rally to Defeat Legislation
Last session, a potentially dangerous bill was introduced in the senate which would have required principals, under the penalty of a misdemeanor, to turn over all “suspected truants” to the local superintendent. In addition, this piece of legislation would have required the superintendent, again under penalty of a misdemeanor, to report all “suspected truants” to the district attorney. The bill ended by saying, “The district attorney shall vigorously enforce this section to assure proper conduct and required attendance by any child.”
Many school districts commonly suspect home schoolers of truancy. Therefore, by requiring prosecution of any reported truants, this legislation could have created an unpleasant atmosphere for many innocent families. Such a change in policy would have effectively hampered Home School Legal Defense Association, which regularly persuades local school districts to leave homeschoolers alone. Furthermore, this bill would have taken away a prosecutor’s discretion to not prosecute a family who was legally home schooling under the church school law.
HSLDA sent out a memo to Alabama members, urging them to write or call their legislators in order to defeat this legislation. Due to the efforts of hundreds of home schoolers, the bill was tabled.
On September 23rd, however, we were alerted by Tom Parker of Alabama Family Advocates that the bill had resurfaced during a special, five-day session. Entitled Senate Bill 28, it quickly passed out of committee and headed for its third reading. HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka contacted John and Cathy Hunter of the Christian Home Education Fellowship of Alabama. News of the bill’s resurrection had already reached them, and they began an alert on CHEF of Alabama’s statewide phone tree, urging home schoolers to call their senators and legislators in opposition to Senate Bill 28.
Attorney Klicka, in an effort to protect home schoolers, drafted an amendment limiting the requirements of the bill to students enrolled in the public schools.
By the following morning the entire switchboard at the state capital was tied up with homeschoolers calling in opposition of Senate Bill 28. The sponsor of the legislation received over 1,000 calls himself. After such an outpouring, the sponsor was very willing to consider adopting an amendment protecting home schoolers.
As soon as the amendment was adopted, the Christian Home Education Fellowship of Alabama, reversed their phone tree and effectively stopped the calls which had flooded the capital switchboard. CHEF also was able to prompt home schoolers in the sponsor’s district to call and thank him for adopting the amendment.
Veteran lobbyist Tom Parker told HSLDA that he had never witnessed any lobbying effort that was able to be rallied on such short notice and which produced such a huge number of calls. He added that as a result of this experience, Alabama legislators have developed a healthy respect for the home schoolers in the state.
Senate Bill 28 did not pass in the special session; however, it is expected to surface again in the next session with the amendment intact. Praise God for His protection of the home schoolers in Alabama! Congratulations to the Christian Home Education Fellowship of Alabama for their quick and effective work which brought some very negative legislation to a screeching halt.