August 14, 2008

Homeschoolers Thwart Daytime Curfew

Homeschoolers stymied an effort to make it a crime for young people to be on the streets during public school hours when a dozen attended a municipal meeting on Monday to object.

After Grain Valley HSLDA member Lisa Guard called and told us about the proposed ordinance, HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff obtained a copy and analyzed it. He then prepared an eight-page letter explaining that the ordinance violated four constitutional rights: a youngster’s right to freedom of movement; a youngster’s right to be free from unreasonable police stops; parents’ rights to rear their children; and the right to be free from vague laws. He sent the letter to the mayor and the city’s attorney.

Woodruff alerted Home School Legal Defense Association members in the area to come to the Monday meeting and gave a heads-up to Brad Haines, president of Families for Home Education. A local TV station aired an interview with Haines on the proposed curfew, giving the issue higher visibility.

Grain Valley Police Chief Aaron Ambrose called Woodruff to try to convince him to stop opposing the ordinance. He said the police needed it as a tool to reduce truancy. Woodruff explained that studies show curfews do not reduce truancy or juvenile crime, that they primarily serve to terrorize law-abiding citizens. Ambrose insisted that his officers would not frighten any children. Woodruff replied that daytime curfews in other areas have been used to harass and scare homeschool youngsters. When Ambrose offered to make some changes, Woodruff replied that the proposed ordinance was not fixable because the underlying concept was totally wrong—because it violates basic freedoms.

The aldermen got an earful from homeschoolers and others at the meeting. During the public comment period, everyone who rose to speak opposed the proposal. Haines reminded them that the city of Independence, which adopted a daytime curfew seven years ago, has never enforced it. Officials acknowledged that truancy is not a huge problem—fewer than 20 public school students are truant on a given day.

The aldermen ultimately voted 6-0 to table the curfew. This means it could be brought back up again at any time. Homeschoolers therefore must continue to communicate their opposition.

 Other Resources

Text of the Proposed Ordinance (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

HSLDA Letter Opposing Proposed Ordinance (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

E-lert, August 8, 2008: Urgent Action Needed to Stop Grain Valley Daytime Curfew