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March 21, 2017

HSLDA Opposes Daytime Curfews. Period.

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Schmidt Tj Schmidt Contact attorney for New Mexico

The New Mexico legislature is considering a bill that threatens to revive a restrictive law-enforcement tactic HSLDA has combatted for years—daytime curfew laws.

House Bill 53 would allow any municipality or county in the state to adopt a curfew ordinance for anyone under age 16. The bill allows both a nighttime curfew, between midnight and 5 a.m., and a daytime curfew during school hours on weekdays.

Home School Legal Defense Association is opposed to daytime curfews because they presume that a child who is out in public during school hours is guilty, and they allow local law enforcement to stop, question, and seize anyone under 16.

Most of the time the children who are stopped are over 16 but under 18 and engaged in perfectly lawful activities—like going to college classes, going to private lessons, or heading to the store at the request of their parents. HSLDA has been involved in numerous situations where homeschooled students have been stopped, questioned, and intimidated while engaged in perfectly lawful activities. Daytime curfews generally fail to deter crime and reduce truancy, but they do unconstitutionally harass and detain law-abiding minors.

Homeschool Exemption?

It’s important to note that H.B. 53 would require any curfew ordinance adopted by a municipality or county to include several exemptions. Most of the exemptions are common to these sorts of ordinances, such as when a child is accompanied by a parent or other adult, is going to or from work, or is going to or from a school or religious function. The bill also includes an exemption for a child who is in a private school or homeschool program and a student who is not required to be in attendance at a particular time.

So what’s the big deal? Don’t these exemptions make the ordinances harmless for homeschooled students? Not at all. While the “homeschool exemption” sounds good on its face, there would still be several problems if this bill were to pass.

First, homeschooled students would be stopped and questioned. Local law enforcement would need to verify that any student they stopped was homeschooled. Second, if a child were stopped and law enforcement was not able to contact the child’s parent or guardian, the child could be taken into custody. In the unlikely event that the parent wasn’t able to be reached within a six-hour time period, then the officer would have to seek protective custody under the Family In Need of Court-Ordered Services Act.

While the New Mexico bill attempts to placate the concerns of the homeschool community, we remain opposed to daytime curfew bills as they are not effective and hinder the lawful movement of a minor. We will continue to closely monitor this bill.