March 3, 2003

Illinois Homeschoolers Face Legislative Threats

A few months ago regional superintendent Bruce Dennison in the Stark and Bureau County area contacted many families about their homeschooling. Home School Legal Defense Association immediately jumped to the defense of our members when they were threatened with home visits, curriculum approval, and "pre-trial" hearings. HSLDA told the superintendent that attempts at implementing and enforcing these procedures were illegal and unconstitutional. We explained how they exceeded Illinois law and violated the civil and constitutional rights of the families.

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Superintendent Dennison, realizing the problems with his tactics, ceased bothering HSLDA members. To our knowledge, no additional families have been harassed.

In the meantime, a new legislature has been elected in Illinois, and many are concerned it will be unsympathetic to homeschool freedom. HSLDA will stand with Christian Home Educators Coalition of Illinois and the Illinois Christian Home Educators to fight any legislation that would impose restrictions on homeschoolers.

A number of legislators have contacted HSLDA inquiring whether or not the homeschoolers are interested in introducing a bill that would clarify the law and guarantee homeschool freedom. These legislators have indicated that if a bill was introduced they would have the power to kill it if any objectionable amendments were attached. HSLDA has been consulting with the state organizations in Illinois and the legislators about our options. Meanwhile, one senator has introduced a "shell bill" that contains no new language, but essentially keeps open the option for legislation to be introduced if there is an

agreement amongst the homeschool leadership at the state level.

Homeschool legislation has passed in a number of states that were completely Democrat-controlled because homeschooling is not a partisan issue, but simply a parental-choice issue. Some in Illinois believe that the present law is too precarious, allowing for harassment as cited above. Introducing legislation specifically recognizing homeschooling without any government restrictions or accountability could create a safer legal atmosphere. Other homeschoolers are completely satisfied with the current legal status and do not want to make any legislative changes.

No decision has been or will be made by HSLDA to introduce legislation. The decision will remain in the hands of Illinois homeschoolers.