January 14, 2008

Potentially Dangerous Ordinance Changed

This fall, Home School Legal Defense Association was alerted to a potentially dangerous truancy ordinance by an attentive member family in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. At the request of a police officer, the Broken Arrow City Council had decided to consider an ordinance intended to ensure that all children within the city were regularly attending school.

HSLDA Staff Attorney Thomas Schmidt reviewed the ordinance and realized that the drafted language was Oklahoma’s compulsory attendance statute with a few changes. However, Schmidt quickly realized that a couple of these changes could have serious unintended consequences for homeschoolers.

In the city’s proposed ordinance, a child would be required to attend for the full term of the school. However, “full term” was defined to include “the daily hours of instruction set by the district the child resides in.” This could have forced homeschoolers to teach their children for the same number of hours as their school district.

Another concern was the fact that the ordinance specifically referred to “home schooling” in the text. Under Oklahoma’s state constitution the phrase used to protect homeschooling is “other means of education.” That language has worked well for over a hundred years, and it is better to stick with the established language.

After the local family attended a hearing on the ordinance and spoke with the city attorney, Schmidt submitted several revisions to the drafted ordinance. All were adopted and will help protect the right of parents to teach their children at home in the manner they deem is appropriate.