Senate File 138: Independent Private Instruction and Private Instruction Families Must File “Form A” and Assess Annually; Officials Must Enter Home and Question Homeschooled Kids 4 Times per Year, By Court Order If Necessary
SF 138 would force all families operating under the Independent Private Instruction Choice or the Private Instruction Choice (Choice 1 or 2 on HSLDA’s list) to file the Form A annually and have an annual assessment. Currently, those families are not so required. It also gives each local school system power to develop their own unique version of Form A and force families to use it.
SF 138 mandates that every school system visit every homeschool family’s home once per quarter, interview or observe every homeschooled child, and “check on the health and safety” of the children. The bill does not explain how the official or officials would “check on” a child’s health since the bill does not require the official or officials to have medical training. If a family refuses to submit to the official’s demands, SF 138 empowers the school to ask a judge to issue an order forcing them to submit.
SF 138 says such a court order is to be based on “probable cause,” but it does not explain probable cause of WHAT. Ordinarily, the phrase “probable cause” is used to characterize allegations that are reasonably likely to be true, and in particular allegations that indicate someone has broken a law. However, the court order could be used even against families as to whom there is absolutely no suspicion of having violated any law. Perhaps the sponsor of the bill expects that courts will say that a family’s mere refusal to submit to the official’s demand to enter the home and question the children is, in and of itself, “probable cause” for a court order. This would fly in the face of centuries of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and be likely to lead to violation of the rights of families.
The bill does not give the family the right to have an opportunity to speak to the judge before he issues the order, or even a right to be notified that it’s about to happen. This kind of legal process is often called “ex parte.”
The bill refers to school officials questioning OR observing the children. It does not say, however, who gets to decide which of those two actually happens. With no safeguards in the text of the bill, the language seems to empower school officials, rather than parents, to decide whether a child shall be questioned or observed.
What is to be discussed during the “interview” and how long shall it last? The bill does not specify. It may be 1 minute, 1 hour, or 3 hours. The official may ask “how are you feeling today” or question the child on virtually every aspect of his life and home. There are no boundaries.
What is to be “observed?” The bill does not specify. It may mean glancing at the child, or it may mean following him around the house for two hours to see what he is doing. It is unconstitutional for a bill to create mandates for officials, provide no restraints on the exercise of the mandates, and then leave the entire power of choosing what will be done up to the subjective decision of officials.
The bill empowers schools to “collaborate” with local, county and state social services organizations. This means that rather than merely having one official from the local school knocking on your door and demanding to enter your home and question your children, there may also be a couple of social workers. Frightening unprepared parents to the point where they reluctantly let a stranger come into their home and question their kids is something social workers do on an all-too-frequent basis. In fact, some social workers have claimed (erroneously) that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to them.
This sets up a one-two punch for parents who do not promptly submit: the school representative can threaten the parents with a court order, and the social worker can threaten to launch a child abuse-neglect investigation or even to take the children.
And all this is with absolutely no reason to suspect the parents of having violated any law.
This bill is identical to HF 268.