March 12, 2003

Utah Senate Kills Truancy Bill

Due to efforts of homeschoolers across Utah, on February 27 the Senate killed House Bill 76, which originally made it a crime to refuse to "cooperate" with school officials investigating truancy.

For several years in a row, Senator Duane Bourdeaux has filed a bill to make it a crime to refuse to "cooperate" with school authorities who are investigating truancy. Unfortunately, many Utah homeschoolers have never been "approved" by their local school district, and therefore could be accused of "truancy." Until Utah's "approval" law is changed, any additional penalties on truants will be a threat to many homeschool families.

A few days earlier on February 24, the bill was amended to address the concerns of homeschoolers. With

the new amendments, parents were merely required to "respond" to a written request, although the term "respond" is defined to include taking "reasonable steps to work with school authorities to resolve a

minor's truancy." Homeschoolers who have been exempted from public school attendance pursuant to Utah Code sec.53A-11-102(1)(b)(ii) were expressly declared "not truant."

Although the Utah Legislature has responded to our concerns about this bill, it still does not understand the problems this law would have caused for families who have never formally been "approved" by their local

school district. Until Utah's "approval" law is changed, Utah homeschoolers will remain at some risk.

This amendment made the H.B. 76 less dangerous; homeschoolers, however, will feel safer now that it is dead.

Utah homeschoolers generally have positive relations with local school officials, but there have been increasing problems in a handful of districts. This year's interaction with the legislature proves they are listening when we speak. Home School Legal Defense Association urges all Utah homeschoolers to build strong, positive relationships with elected representatives.

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