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4/8/2003 10:16:05 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Vermont--Vague Legislation Would Make "Emotional Abuse" Illegal

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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April 8, 2003

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

Representative Masland, of Bedford, is trying to make "emotional
abuse" illegal in Vermont. While emotional abuse is bad, House Bill
203 is worse; its language is far too broad to be safe for families.
We need your help to stop this bill.

ACTION REQUESTED

Immediately contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee and
urge them to oppose H. 203. Tell them, "Please vote against House
Bill 203. Emotional abuse could mean anything. Don't punish something
you can't even define." Phone messages can be left with the Sergeant
at Arms of the House at (802) 828-2228.

Committee members:
Representative Flory of Pittsford, Chair, pflory@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Grad of Moretown, Vice-Chair, mgrad@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Bailey of Hyde Park, hbailey@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Gervais of Enosburg, Clerk, agervais@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Haas of Rutland City, chaas@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Jewett of Ripton, wjewett@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Kainen of Hartford, sgtatarms@leg.state.vt.us
(put Representative's name in subject line)
Representative Kilmartin of Newport City, dkilmartin@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Kiss of Burlington, bkiss@together.net
Representative Lippert of Hinesburg, wlippert@leg.state.vt.us
Representative Marek of Newfane, rmarek@leg.state.vt.us

BACKGROUND

Each year, more than two million families are investigated due to
allegations of abuse or neglect. The vast majority of these
investigations are "unfounded," but each raises a real possibility
that children will be removed from their homes. Home School Legal
Defense Association believes that child abuse is a crime, and should
be punished as such. H. 203 makes "emotional abuse" an offense
against the state, subjecting families to investigation for any
"conduct which is intended to demean, frighten, intimidate, or
isolate."

Constitutional law prohibits the state from depriving any person of
liberty through a "vague" statute. Under American law, people should
be able to tell when they are breaking the law if they are to be
punished by it. H. 203 is a classic example of a "vague" law which
raises the prospect or selective or discriminatory enforcement.
Parents who homeschool their children may be accused of "isolating"
them. The reference to "willful infliction of mental or emotional
anguish" is overbroad.

Legislators hate to appear "soft" on child abuse, so they tend to
expand the definitions of abuse or neglect each time they are asked
to do so. It is essential that Vermont citizens contact their
legislators to ask them to oppose this bill. Without your help,
Vermont will forbid behavior it cannot even define.

Very truly yours,

Scott W. Somerville
HSLDA Staff Attorney

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