Red Alert (Not a Drill): Three Bills would require Approval, Criminal Background Checks
Message to supporters from Peter Kamakawiwoole, Home School Legal Defense Association (excerpt)
Last week, three bills were introduced by the Hawaii Legislature that would significantly restrict homeschool freedom: Senate Bills 2274 and 2323, and House Bill 2244.
Although the bills don't agree on every particular, all three would require every homeschooling family to receive "approval" from either their local school principal or their district superintendent before they can homeschool.
And to receive this approval, families would have to agree to undergo a series of record-checks, ranging from a review of social service records to a full criminal background check. Families who fail these checks—or refuse to consent to them—cannot homeschool their children.
In the coming weeks, HSLDA will be closely monitoring these bills and consulting with Hawaii's state and local homeschool leaders. We encourage you to join us in staying informed, active, and vigilant.
Here is more detailed information about the specifics of each bill. To see updates visit HSLDA’s Legislative Action Center.
Senate Bill 2274 (introduced by Senator Josh Green) would require that your notice of intent to homeschool be approved by your child's local public school principal. It also requires principals to contact social services whenever a family files a notice of intent to determine if the family has any history of child abuse or neglect. If there is any such history, the notice must be denied unless social services determines that the child is not in any immediate danger, or the family both has a court order allowing homeschooling and submits to monthly home visits by social service officials.
Senate Bill 2323 (introduced by Senators Kahele, Galuteria, Inouye, and Kidani) requires that notices be approved by the superintendent of your child's school district. In addition to having social services check the family for any history of child abuse or neglect, this bill would also require the superintendent to conduct a background check of the child's parents or legal guardians within 5 business days. Parents must consent to both the social services check and background check in their notice of intent, and failure to provide this consent will result in an automatic denial by the superintendent. Parents cannot legally homeschool their children until after their notice has been approved. If the superintendent denies approval, the family's only recourse would be to file a petition in family court, where they would bear the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that homeschooling is appropriate for their child.
House Bill 2244 (introduced by Representative Evans) requires that the superintendent obtain a background check—including a criminal history record check, sex offender registry check, child abuse record check, and adult abuse perpetrator check—for each adult and child named in the notice of intent within 7 days. The superintendent is required to deny approval if any child in the family has been the subject of a confirmed child welfare report or has received general protective services. The only appeal is through a petition in the family court, where the parents would bear the burden of proving that homeschooling is appropriate by clear and convincing evidence—and even then, the court could order monthly visits by social workers and monthly progress reports to the court.
Child abuse and neglect deserve serious solutions. These bills would instead create additional regulatory burdens for homeschooling families, school officials, and CPS investigators. They would also prevent parents from beginning to homeschool immediately—even if their children are experiencing bullying, health problems, learning difficulties, or mental health issues in their current school.
I was raised in Hawaii, homeschooled from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and interned at the state capitol during my senior year in high school. So I was very disappointed to learn that these bills would turn Hawaii into one of just three states to require "approval" for homeschools (Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the others), and the only state in the country that would make criminal background checks mandatory for all homeschooling families.
HSLDA and I strongly oppose SB 2274, SB 2323, and HB 2244, and we need your help to spread the word about the dangers posed by these bills.
Mahalo nui loa,
Home School Legal Defense Association Attorney
LINK: Action Requested
RELATED: SB2323: Senators Caught Lying About Peter Boy Case
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Hawaii SB 2323 Is a Positive Step toward Protecting Homeschooled Children
News Release from Coalition for Responsible Home Education
Canton, Ma. 02/07/2018—This week, Hawaii State Senator Kaiali’i Kahele introduced Senate Bill 2323, which would create a screening process designed to ensure that children with elevated risk factors are not removed from school to be homeschooled. Kahele told reporters that he introduced the bill in response the tragic 2016 starvation death of 9-year-old Shaelynn Lehano, who lived in his Hilo district. “We are pleased with Sen. Kahele’s proposal and urge the Hawaii legislature to put homeschooled children first by supporting SB 2323,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education(CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “Homeschooling should be used to lovingly prepare children for an open future, and not as an avenue for abusive parents to isolate children and conceal torture and abuse.”
Under SB 2323, the complex area superintendent would run a background check on each individual residing in a home upon the receipt of a notification of intent to homeschool; families with a history of child abuse or neglect would have their notification of intent denied. In the bill’s introduction, Kahele references “Peter Boy” Kema, who died in 1997 after his parents were allowed to homeschool him despite their history of child abuse and neglect. Shaelynn’s case was eerily similar. In a 2014 study of child torture, Barbara Knox, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin, found that 47% of the school-aged victims she examined had been removed from school to be homeschooled, an act “designed to further isolate the child” that “typically occurred after closure of a previously opened CPS case.”
CRHE maintains the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database, which catalogues cases across the country where abuse and neglect occur under the guise of homeschooling. In many of these cases, parents withdrew a child to homeschool after teachers demonstrated a willingness to report signs of abuse, thus preventing future reports. “We have seen case after case where abusive parents have used homeschooling to conceal abuse,” said Coleman.
Currently, two states bar homeschooling based on certain risk factors. Pennsylvania bars parents from homeschooling when an adult in the household has committed a crime that would prevent them from teaching in a public school; Arkansas prohibits homeschooling when there is a registered sex offender in the home. SB 2323 would make Hawaii a national leader in the protection of homeschooled children. The background check and flagging process proposed by Sen. Kahele is in line with CRHE’s recommendations.
“Previous child welfare services involvement is one of the top risk factors for future abuse,” said Coleman. “Children at elevated risk of child abuse should have access to mandatory reporters and a support system.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.
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SB2274: Text, Status
SB2323: Text, Status
HB2244: Text, Status
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