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New Mexico

September 23, 2002

New Mexico Prosecutor Targets Truants

New Mexico families can teach their children at home with minimal government red tape required. A simple notice in the fall and a renewal by April 1 each year is enough to satisfy the new homeschool law. New Mexico families are understandably pleased with this arrangement, but may be surprised to discover that even this notice may be more than they really need to do. According to the Albuquerque Journal, truancy laws have been ignored in the city for years. "None of the 200 plus citations issued by Albuquerque police last year resulted in any official actions," says an article in the August 24, 2002 edition.

Albuquerque District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has launched a campaign to "crack down" on truancy in Bernalillo County. She intends to "hold parents responsible." "Everyone has resource problems, but the issue is just too important, and the numbers are just too bad," she said. The Albuquerque Journal reports that more than 4,000 children in the Albuquerque public school system had 10 or more absences in a single semester last year.

Attorney Brandenburg plans to go after parents whose children are not in school. "If the parents refuse to cooperate, they are prosecuted in magistrate court and face fines and possible jail times," says the Journal. Both Democratic and Republican legislators are calling for changes to the compulsory attendance school law to make it easier for schools to go straight to the prosecutor in cases of truancy. Democratic legislator Rick Miera wants to go further than that and make truancy a "delinquent act," which could put children in jail. The Secretary of the Children, Youth and Families Department, Deborah Hartz thinks that goes too far. "Kids who don't go to school don't belong in jail, and that potential exists if you make truancy a delinquent act," she says.

HSLDA encourages New Mexico families to know the law and comply with it, unless they have sincere religious or conscientious objections to government control of their homeschool. We also encourage every homeschool family to work closely with local support groups and state organizations to protect homeschoolers' rights when the legislature meets. New Mexico's legislative session begins January 14, and we encourage homeschool families to be prepared to defend their liberties.