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January 30, 2017

An Iowa lawmaker wants quarterly visits for homeschooling families.

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What You Should Know about SF 138

SCOTT WOODRUFF Contact attorney for Iowa

On January 25, Iowa State Senator Matt McCoy filed a bill that would impose dramatic new restrictions on Iowa homeschooling families. His bill, SF 138, is a well-intended but misguided response to the recent tragic death of 16-year-old Natalie Finn as a result of reported child abuse and neglect.

Iowa currently has two homeschool options which, like a number of other states, do not require families to file anything and do not require an annual assessment. McCoy’s bill would in effect eliminate those options and make every Iowa homeschool family submit to those requirements.

More shockingly, it also requires officials to enter the home of every homeschool family and question the children four times per year. If a family refuses to submit to the official’s demands, SF 138 empowers the school to go to court to seek an order forcing them to submit.

I have sent a letter to every member of the Iowa Senate Education Committee, where McCoy’s bill is now pending, explaining why his bill should be rejected, and urging them to pursue strategies that have already been proven to reduce child abuse and neglect fatalities, as reflected in the 2016 report of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

That commission’s top recommendation was to “[i]dentify children and families most at risk of a maltreatment fatality.” It identified numerous risk factors. Then it showed how a community in Florida and in Kansas used those factors to build a proven, effective strategy for reducing child abuse and neglect fatalities.

Homeschooling was never listed as a risk factor—or even mentioned in the report.

I urge all our members to read my full letter. If a friend, neighbor, or relative asks you whether restrictions on homeschoolers are needed to prevent child maltreatment deaths, you will have solid answers for them.

The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators has responded to this situation as well.