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November 13, 2017

Legislator Apologizes for Calling Homeschooling “Child Abuse”

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Mike Donnelly MIKE DONNELLY Contact attorney for New Hampshire

It’s child abuse.

Half the kids are failing to learn.

It’s a floodgate for dropouts.

Recent comments like these reveal antagonism towards homeschooling among certain factions in the New Hampshire Legislature, explaining why we appear headed toward a legislative battle over homeschool freedoms.

According to the Manchester Union Leader, three state lawmakers are preparing bills that would roll back improvements to the homeschool law enacted in 2012.

One such measure, H.B. 1263, has been prefiled by prime sponsor Representative Robert Theberge, who has rebuffed our attempts to communicate with him about the bill.

Part of a Bigger Problem

It appears that Theberge’s lack of transparency is just part of a broader hostility to homeschooling.

Witnesses tell us that in an executive session on a controversial bill relating to banning "conversion therapy" for children experiencing gender confusion, senior Democratic lawmaker Marjorie Porter categorically compared homeschooling to child abuse.

Although the executive session in the New Hampshire House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services on October 26 was not recorded, sources who were present told Home School Legal Defense Association that they were shocked to hear the legislator’s comments, especially in that context.

Others told HSLDA that Representative William Marsh, a Republican member of the committee whose four oldest children graduated from the family’s homeschool and went on to top-tier colleges, and whose youngest is homeschooling through high school, told Rep. Porter that he considered her comments equating homeschooling with child abuse as a personal affront. He subsequently received a public apology from Rep. Porter, who is assistant minority floor leader in the House.

Meanwhile, Berlin School District Superintendent Corinne Cascadden reportedly expressed concerns about the effectiveness of homeschooling in her district.

The Union Leader quoted Representative Edith Tucker as saying, “Dr. Cascadden has some very grave doubts about whether half of Berlin’s homeschooled students are getting educated. Half get a really fine education, she believes."

Rep. Tucker added that Cascadden’s worries are a primary motivation for upcoming legislation aimed at repealing homeschool freedoms.

Return to the Past?

Before 2012, homeschooling families were required to submit an annual notice as well as annual assessments to a participating agency demonstrating a certain level of achievement.  After the law change parents only submit a one-time notice when they commence home education or upon termination. While students must still score at or above the 40th percentile on a standardized test or obtain a favorable report from a certified teacher, the results are maintained by the parents and not regularly submitted to the participating agency.

The 2012 reforms were part of a significant nationwide move to remove unnecessary regulatory requirements from homeschooling, and have resulted in no reported problems for families or children receiving home education.

State homeschool leaders are standing with HSLDA to oppose attempts to revive old restrictions.

George D’Orazio, chairman of the state’s Home Education Advisory Council, says that though he understands the concerns raised by Cascadden and others, changing the law won't address the problem.

"Basically what’s going to happen if this passes is that the changes in the law that were made in 2012 will be undone, and I’m absolutely opposed to that," he said. "I can’t take a position as chairman of HEAC, but as a homeschooler and member of Catholics United for Home Education I’m absolutely opposed because I think it’s unnecessary."

HSLDA will be working to defeat this legislation and has asked New Hampshire residents to take action to defend their freedoms. An attack on the freedom of New Hampshire homeschooling freedom by policymakers undermines the hard-won freedom of all homeschoolers.

HSLDA’s advocacy campaign can be accessed here.