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South Dakota

February 21, 2001

House Bill 1181: Waiting Period for Attendance Excuse

Update:
Good news! H.B. 1181, the bill that would have forced a 30-day waiting period on home school families, was killed in committee this morning, February 27. This victory is a testimony to the grace of God and the hard work and perseverance of many home school families and leaders.

Thank you to each of you who made countless telephone calls to oppose the bill and those who made personal sacrifices to attend the House and Senate hearings. Because so many home schoolers stood up and insisted that we be heard, our liberty was protected.

A special word of thanks goes to the board of South Dakota Christian Home Educators (SDCHE). SDCHE opposed this bill from the outset and twice sent representatives to Pierre to testify against the bill.

Analysis:
House Bill 1181, sponsored by Representatives Thomas Hennies, Granos, and Kooistra and Senator Ham, has two sections.

Section 1 would require every family to file a request to home school 30 days before the home school program is to begin EVERY YEAR (except for families who move into the district less than 30 days before the home school program is to begin). Parents would be allowed to request a waiver of the 30-day requirement, "if the situation warrants it." No standards are prescribed for a school board to use in deciding whether the "situation warrants it." Although the bill requires an "expeditious" decision on a waiver request, no time limit is prescribed.

Since the school system receives funding based on student attendance, the school board has a financial incentive to act slowly. Many school boards only meet monthly, so a family might have to wait 30 days to request the waiver of the 30-day requirement! With no timetable or standard for ruling on waiver requests, the waiver option is of almost no practical assistance.

Section 2, as amended in Senate committee, forbids a student whose parents wish to pursue a home school program from obtaining the necessary excuse if the child has been suspended or expelled from public school but has not finished serving the suspension or expulsion. It also forbids a child from enrolling in a private school until the suspension or expulsion is finished.

HSLDA'S REASONS FOR OPPOSING H.B. 1181

Reasons for Opposing Section 1.

  1. The bill hurts those who are not causing the supposed problem. The bill's sponsors claim that the purpose of the bill is to prevent parents from removing their children from public school in anger after school discipline, only to put them back in—farther behind in school—a short time later. Rather than tailoring the bill narrowly to address that particular situation, the bill takes a "blunderbuss" approach and imposes a 30-day delay on hundreds of home schoolers outside the target group.

  2. Laws should only be written to solve REAL problems. The sponsors of H.B. 1181 have not established that any such problem even exists, relying instead on a handful of anecdotes. Unable to establish whether the targeted behavior happens 2, 20, 200 or 2,000 times per year statewide, they admit the problem is "small."

  3. Thirty days is an unreasonable period to force a family to wait. Only one other state in the country forces parents to wait that long.

  4. Some students, unfortunately, find themselves in intolerable school situations where they are being beaten up by bullies, are intimidated by teachers, suffer from acute medical problems, or even find their lives endangered. When parents believe it is best for a child to be removed from public school to start a home school program, they should not be forced to wait 30 days while the child languishes in a hostile school environment.

  5. The provision allowing the parents to request a waiver of the 30-day period is of essentially no value because there are no time limits imposed on the school board and no standards for granting or denying the request.

  6. We would not tolerate a law that required us to wait 30 days to exercise our constitutional right to attend the church of our choice, get a marriage license, or apply for a job. Why should we tolerate a law that delays a parent's ability to exercise the constitutional right to choose the education for one's child?

Reasons for Opposing Section 2:

  1. An existing law says that if a student has been suspended or expelled in one public school district, the student may not enroll in a different school district until the suspension or expulsion has expired. Since all school districts are part of the overall government educational establishment, perhaps this law makes sense. But if a family wishes to remove their child from the government system, it makes no sense whatsoever to put up a roadblock simply because the child has been suspended or expelled from that system.

  2. Students are sometimes suspended or expelled for erroneous, false, or frivolous reasons. A school district's mistaken action should not force parents to wait to begin their home education program.

  3. If a child has been suspended or expelled, the child is obviously not thriving in the government educational system. This child may blossom once removed from the government system. Such children may need home schooling the most.

  4. Section 2 sends a wrong message. It implies that keeping children in the government system is more important than protecting the right of a parent to choose the education that is best for the child.

  5. Section 2 creates an atmosphere that invites further punitive legislation against parents who wish to exercise educational choice.

Author:
Thomas Hennies

Summary:
This bill would add a requirement to the law that the parent submit the application for excuse from attendance 30 days prior to beginning of the alternative education program (home school).

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA opposes this bill. For an explanation of our position, click on the links below and read the e-lerts we have sent regarding this bill.

 Other Resources

Bill History
2/27/2001
H.B. 1181 DIES IN COMMITTEE
2/21/2001 URGENT ACTION NEEDED-SENATE COMMITTEE HEARING TOMORROW ON HOUSE BILL 1181
2/16/2001 SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE NOW HOLDS FATE OF H.B. 1181
2/15/2001 FAVORABLE LANGUAGE STRIPPED FROM H.B. 1181-CALLS NEEDED
2/15/2001 South Dakota Bill 1181 Amendment History
2/14/2001 Calls needed on HB 1181
2/7/2001 H.B. 1181 TO BE HEARD IN COMMITTEE TOMORROW: CALLS URGENTLY NEEDED
2/2/2001 ADVANCING BILL WOULD CREATE HOME SCHOOL ROADBLOCK

Bill Text