- A public school superintendent has sent police in squad
cars to the houses of homeschooling families to deliver his demand that
they appear for a "pre-trial hearing" to prove they are in compliance
with the law.
- Bruce Dennison, regional superintendent of schools in
Bureau, Stark, and Henry counties in Northeastern Illinois, has contacted
more than 22 families, insisting that they need his approval to conduct
education at home.
- >Dennison is exceeding his authority, according to
Chris Klicka of the >http://www.hslda.org Home School Legal Defense
Association, or HSLDA, who >argues that homeschooling is legal in Illinois
and families do not need school district approval to teach their own children.
- "He's muscling the homeschoolers pretty heavily,"
Klicka told WorldNetDaily. "One truant officer told a family that
he 'could take away the kids if he wanted to.'"
- Also, a district attorney in the area has threatened
to prosecute families that do not submit to requests to have their program
approved, said Klicka.
- But state law is straightforward and simple, Klicka insists.
A 1950 Illinois Supreme Court decision, People v. Levisen, established
that homeschooling falls under the requirements of a private school. Private
schools are required only to teach the same branches of instruction as
public schools and to do it in the English language.
- HSLDA characterizes the situation in Illinois as one
of many around the nation in which school districts and government officials
are seeking to wield greater control over home-based education. The U.S.
now has as many as 2 million homeschoolers, according to some estimates.
- >The state of California is > http://18.104.22.168/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=28644
warning parents >that they cannot educate their children at home without
acquiring a professional teaching credential. Officials maintain this stance
despite a statute that allows any parent to homeschool under a private
school exemption. Homeschool defenders note that districts are motivated
to keep as many children in public school as possible because funds are
allotted per student.
- Not much structure
- Dennison told WorldNetDaily that it is the policy of
his office to not to comment on specific cases, but emphasized that in
Illinois there is no statute on homeschooling.
- "So we are relying upon court cases as well as the
compulsory attendance law," he said. "I think that is extremely
important in the homeschooling process, because that does not give much
- Dennison said that "in some instances in which folks
have chosen not to share information about their schooling with our office,
we have asked that they attend a meeting prior to court action being taken,
that may be referenced as a pre-trial hearing."
- "It's another opportunity to have a conversation
about what in fact parents are doing about the homeschooling of their child,"
- Klicka maintains, however, that other superintendents
in Illinois accept the procedure for homeschooling in the state that his
group advises, which is to prepare a "statement of assurance."
- If a family is contacted, according to Klicka, they say,
"We've established a private school in our home pursuant to the Levison
case. We're teaching the same branches of instruction as public schools."
- Home visit
- But Christine Fortune told WND that two squad cars showed
up at her house in Geneseo, Ill., in Henry County, in late October to deliver
a letter demanding that she appear at a "pre-trial" hearing.
- One police cruiser pulled into her driveway, another
parked on the street. One policeman then accompanied a truant officer and
case worker to her >door, while the other police officer waited in his
- "I was very angry," said Fortune, who homeschools
her 14-year-old daughter Stephanie. "[My children] were really perplexed
why the police were coming >for me. It was way overkill for something
that was not even a certified, subpoena kind of letter. It was just something
they could have popped in the mail."
- Fortune, who served as a substitute public school teacher
in the country for about 10 years, said she had homeschooled prior to this
school year without any interference.
- Klicka said that if a superintendent had evidence that
a family is lying or is fraudulent, he should refer it to the prosecutor,
but "this superintendent is thinking, 'I've got to approve the curriculum,
I've got to check up on the parents.'"
- Homeschoolers are under no legal obligation to attend
"pre-trial hearings," which have no standards or guarantees,
- "They're not really 'pre-trial' because there are
no charges filed," he said. "It's just part of the intimidation
- When questioned, the district attorney had no idea what
standards would be used to judge a homeschooler's curriculum, Klicka said.
- On Oct. 18, just four or five days prior to the police-escorted
visit to Fortune's house, the homeschool mother allowed a case worker from
the school district to come into her home. HSLDA contends that mandatory
home visits are violations of a family's right to privacy and the right
to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, as guaranteed by the
U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.
- "On the phone, [the case worker] said she wanted
to review the curriculum and see if I needed any help - is how she was
phrasing it," Fortune said.
- The case worker was escorted to a room to see the computer-based
curriculum Fortune's daughter uses.
- "The beauty of that program is it's perfect for
any questions she would have," Fortune said. "It has a record
of grades and the things that have been done and lesson plans. I could
have just produced that for her very easily, but she never asked."
- Instead, said Fortune, the case worker "was fixated
on attendance records."
- That struck Fortune as being rather odd: "I said,
'I don't do that - we don't punch a time clock. I just write down what
- "I kept telling her," said Fortune, "'[My
children] live here; they haven't been absent once from the home.'"
- Dennison would not comment on Fortune's case, citing
policy, but said police have been asked to accompany truant officers and
case workers in a "very low profile, in a very courteous manner."
- Dennison bases his approach on a memo issued by the Illinois
State Board of Education's legal department, which cites the 1974 federal
court ruling Scoma vs. Chicago Board of Education. The memo says "the
court emphasized that the burden of proof rests with the parents to establish
that the plan of home instruction which they are providing to their children
meets the state requirements."
- The position paper says that "if the regional superintendent
is dissatisfied with the parents' ability and/or willingness to establish
that home instruction in a specific instance satisfies the requirements
of state law, the regional superintendent may request that regional or
school district truant officer to investigate to see that the child is
in compliance with the compulsory attendance law."
- In a brief on Illinois state law, the HSLDA notes that
Scoma v. Chicago Board of Education "found the Levisen decision to
be 'reasonable and constitutional.'"
- In the Levisen case, HSLDA says, "the Illinois Supreme
Court emphasized the right of parents to control their children's education."
- Levisen held that: "Compulsory education laws are
enacted to enforce the natural obligations of parents to provide an education
for their young, an obligation which corresponds to the parents' right
of control over the child. (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 400.) The
object is that all shall be educated not that they shall be educated in
any particular manner >or place."
- Since the police visit, Fortune has been referring all
communication to HSLDA, which is helping three other families who are in
a similar situation. Membership with the Virginia-based group allows homeschool
>families to take advantage of their legal resources.
- Klicka said he is advising his member families not to
go to the hearings or allow home visits but to "stand on a simple
letter declaring they are >legally homeschooling as a private school."
- >© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com, Inc. >