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3/20/2013 3:01:29 PM
Mike Donnelly--HSLDA
URGENT Calls Needed NOW to Protect Family

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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URGENT Calls Needed NOW to Protect Family

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill ("SB")
404. The bill would allow the state to prosecute for child neglect if
a child is "habitually absent from school without good cause." SB 404
has moved rapidly through the legislature and will come up on the
floor of the Senate for a first reading today.

In West Virginia, truancy is already a criminal offense under West
Virginia Code 18-8-2, which charges parents with a misdemeanor if they
do not send their children to school as required by law. Current law
already provides school officials and courts enough power to handle
truancy. This includes granting authority for a magistrate to order
children to attend school and to even order parents to accompany the
child to school for the whole day for as many days as the judge sees
fit, in addition to fining and potentially jailing the parent.

Because these statutes are criminal, however, parents have important
due process protections. Schools and courts also must follow specific
procedures when there are problems with school attendance. These
procedures make sure that everyone understands what is expected of
them and what can happen when there are problems. Criminal procedures
afford higher protection than the West Virginia child abuse code.
However, the abuse and neglect code already provide the state tools to
prosecute parents for educational neglect. The term "habitually
truant" is a vague term that could be open to definition by courts as
well as individual school districts.

If the legislature passes SB 404, however, and creates a new
definition of "neglect" in the abuse code, more families will be
hauled into family court with fewer due process protections. These
families will be subject to the whims of judges who could order just
about anything they want, including the removal of children from the
home, just because children, in their opinion, haven't been to school
enough. Judges should not have this authority, and it is crucial that
all freedom-loving West Virginians tell the legislature no to giving
this unfettered discretion and power to judges in our state.

ACTION REQUESTED

Please contact your senator IMMEDIATELY and give him or her the
following messages in your own words:

"I am calling to oppose SB 404, which defines habitual school absences
as a form of child neglect. This bill is unnecessary and gives too
much power to judges over West Virginia families without proper legal
protections. Truancy and neglect laws today already provide the
government with plenty of power to address children who are not
attending school. Current law also protects parents, children and
school personnel by giving specific procedures under which they are to
act. By placing a new definition of abuse and neglect in the law,
judges would have unbridled discretion to decide in their own
subjective opinion whether a child is truant and what to do about
it--including removing children from their homes. Children should not
be taken away from their parents just because they don't go to school
enough in the subjective opinion of a judge. "

"The proposal does not take into consideration other circumstances
that would legitimately explain a child's absences, such as emotional
or mental problems, or even if a child were removed from school to be
homeschooled. Please vote no on this dangerous and unnecessary
legislation and protect West Virginia families from being hauled into
courts with less due process protections. Parents and schools, not
judges, should be addressing the issues of school attendance for
children under the current law, which is sufficient."

"This bill did not proceed last year after being studied and should
not move forward this year. Last year in the study committee it was
reported that there was over 90% attendance compliance in West
Virginia, so this law is certainly not indicated. Please vote against
SB 404."


You can find your senator and his or her contact information here:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=17710

BACKGROUND

If passed HB 4309 would:

> Define parents as child abusers if their children appear physically
healthy but miss what a judge thinks is too many days of school;

> Makes it too easy for Child Protection Services and judges to remove
children from a home even if the children were not "actually" abused
or neglected;

> Puts too much power in the hands of unaccountable judges with vague
definitions and broad powers. What is habitually absent? Who defines
"healthy" or "physically safe"?

> Could result in the removal of children from their homes who are
having non-physical problems, such as depression or other emotional
issues and force them to attend public school against their parents
will;

> Would affect homeschool families if they do not file their
homeschool paperwork properly, such as a late notice of intent or not
complying with the 14-day waiting period before pulling children out
of public school to homeschool;

> Does not take into consideration children's special physical,
mental, emotional or other needs.

> Treats truancy as child abuse and places parents in Family Court
were the judges have virtually unlimited powers and where parents have
fewer due process protections;

> Creates a system of enforcement that just does not care about the
individual needs of a child and the efforts that parents are putting
in to meeting those needs.

> Is unnecessary because state law already provides sufficient
authority to punish parents and for schools and attendance directors
to fashion remedies to deal with habitual truancy under the criminal
code.

Thank you for all you do in defense of freedom for families in the
great state of West Virginia!

Very truly yours,


Michael P. Donnelly, Esq.
HSLDA Staff Attorney

P.S. We greatly value you and your support--it is a privilege to serve
you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you
consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support
for our work enables us to defend individual families threatened by
government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join
now: http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=17711

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-> How many news articles did you read this morning over your
oatmeal?

We live in a world where concise information presented at the
right time can make a big difference in the outcome of important
legislative efforts. Yet it's tough to keep up with all the
issues that affect you. HSLDA does this for you in the areas that
affect your homeschool. Our emails and website enable you to
take quick, decisive action. Please consider becoming a part of
this team.

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1923

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