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Legal News and Sundry

by Lori Harris

Homeschoolers in Mexico can contact their volunteer organization at El Hogar Educadorn PDO 17, Arteaga, Coahuila 25350 Mexico. Their state side address is: BMP #529,1001 S. 10th St., Suite G McAllen TX 78501 phone 528-483-0377 in Mexico:011- 018-483-0377. To find out about their upcoming conference or to volunteer contact them at the above address or by email at The conference is being planned for August 2000 in Saltillo Coahuilla.


According to U.S. News & World Report, June 19,2000 Editorial, homeschooling is a phenomenon that deserves a far more serious look. The evidence piled up at the 73rd Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, an annual event that attracts some of the smartest kids in the nation. This year, there were 248 participants at the national run-off; some 27 were homeschoolers, up from 19 last year. Ahead of the class, the winner was George Abraham Thampy, age 12, a homeschooler from the St. Louis area who, just a week earlier, had finished second in a national geography competition. Thampy's parents are both from Kerala, India, and they began homeschooling their son, along with six siblings, after an incident of school violence scared them away from public education. Notably, the second- and third-place winners were also homeschoolers. George Thampy says his parents did something quite radical. They "freed him to learn." Educators do not yet have enough data from homeschooling experiments to draw definitive conclusions, says the report but The National Home Education Research Institute reports that between 1.3 million and 1.7 million school-age children—about 3 percent—are currently homeschooled. Apparently, these children have not been as closely studied as they should be. But the data we do have show that the numbers are growing rapidly, from 7 percent to 15 percent a year. Lawrence Rudner, of the University of Maryland, has found that the median income for homeschool families ($52,000) is higher than that of all families with children ($36,000). Further, about a quarter of homeschool students are enrolled one grade or more above their age-level peers, and their median scores on tests are "well above" those of public- and private-school students.

While these results may not be definitive, they certainly suggest some obvious implications for public education. We have entered a period of great experimentation in the way we teach the young—"a thousand flowers are blooming"—and we ought to push forward on as many fronts as we can. The more leeway the public school authorities and the unions give to education, the better. The editorial continues with the statement that home schools are joining the ranks of charter schools and vouchers as critical paths toward a better educational environment. News Editor’s Note: Although this is definitely a positive report from a news media that is on the outside looking in, government controlled chartered schools and voucher programs will still put the control in the hands of those who have no business with it: The government. Our goal as homeschooling parents should be to enlighten these outside media sources to see that parents alone should be responsible for the choice of how their children are educated.


Conditions for home-schoolers in Europe are much the same as they were in the United States 15 years ago, according to Chris Klicka of Home School Legal Defense. In Switzerland, for example, parents must be certified as teachers to home school. In France, families must be approved by school officials to home school, and their efforts are supervised with many in-home visits. In the Netherlands, it is illegal. In Germany, homeschooling is nearly illegal and several families are being threatened with jail. To home school in Germany, parents must meet the same requirements as public and private schools, making it difficult, not impossible for families to teach their youngsters at home. In Germany, despite government efforts to quash home schooling, an estimated 500 families are actively doing just that, with a growing underground network of home educators who hope to carry on without arrest. Mr. Klicka is working with lawyers in Germany to put together a similar organization like HSLDA in their own country. There, German home-school families as well as home-schooling American missionaries living abroad have been threatened with steep fines and imprisonment. "The families being prosecuted desperately need our help," said Mr. Klicka, who received an impassioned letter from one German home-school leader, Helmut Stücher. "A consolidated effort and international pressure are truly the only way to force the rigid German authorities to concede," Mr. Stücher wrote, asking for U.S. support. "The state ministers of family and education will then surely have an open ear for our situation. "In the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, one father of 11, Johan Harder, who tried to home school his children, had his house ransacked by German authorities in March. Police broke through the man’s living room window and turned his home upside down as several of the children hid in the attic or jumped out windows for safety. Mr. Harder’s 11-year-old daughter was taken from her home and placed in a local school, he said. She was escorted to classes by police for the next two weeks. Mr. Harder, who says sending his children to a secular and humanist public school would violate his religious beliefs, is facing imprisonment and fines of $250 per day per child if he continues to teach them at home. His case remains unresolved.

In 1993, South African parents Andre and Bokkie Mientjies were sentenced to two years in prison for home schooling their children. After U.S. home-schoolers barraged the South African embassy with letters and calls, the Meintjieses were released from jail. Soon the South African Parliament began considering the issue and home schooling was legalized. Mr. Klicka also was successful in working with lawmakers in Ireland to amend a bill that would have required Irish home-schooling parents to submit to a home visit by a social worker who would assess whether children were "progressing emotionally, mentally and physically." Mr. Klicka hopes similar progress will be made in Germany. That is why the organization is calling on families here to write letters of support together, describing to German officials the benefits of learning at home. "This is a great educational opportunity for children to learn the importance of the freedoms we have in the United States and how easily they can be taken away," said Mr. Klicka. "What home-schoolers in the United States do makes a difference in other countries."


The XVIIth Annual Christian Home Educators Convention will be held July 7-9, 2000, at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. call 800/564-2432 or e-mail for more information.


Protests by parents and civil rights groups are forcing changes in legislation passed by the California Assembly that seeks to permit the interrogation of children by pediatricians on such politically-charged subjects as whether their parents own handguns and what sort of television programs they watch. The bill, authored by Representative Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and passed by one vote last month, will be made "less intrusive" before it goes to the state Senate committee on Health and Human Services. The bill, adopted recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics in a policy statement that advises pediatricians to screen children for risk factors indicating violence. Under the bill, the AAP guidelines would be used by the Child Health and Disability Prevention program, which is administered by county governments for poor families under the supervision of the state Department of Health Services. Passage of the bill caused an uproar after civil rights groups noted it would allow pediatricians to ask children as young as five whether their family had a history of mental illness, domestic violence, drug use, and whether the parents were unemployed or divorced. The bill also sought to permit doctors to ask the child if his or her parents owned a handgun or whether the child had been exposed to violence, either directly in the family or indirectly through movies or TV. "The impact of this bill on our privacy is frightening," a local resident wrote to the Sacramento Bee newspaper after learning about the possible impact of the bill. "Interrogating children about their parents was a ploy much favored in Nazi Germany. It's obscene to consider such tactics in a free, democratic society -- even in the name of 'doing good,'" wrote another. "This type of invasion of the family will interfere with trust between parents and health care providers," said yet another. "It would be confusing for the children who may not understand that what they say could cause their separation from their parents. "Steinberg claimed that people were reading into the bill what was not there and announced he would amend the legislation. An "entirely different" version of the legislation would be published in about 10 days, his office said. "Children were never going to be the subject of questioning, and we are going to clarify that in the bill," a spokeswoman for Steinberg said Wednesday. "Our intent was to give parents additional tools to try and help their children if they have issues of concern. "Steinberg made a commitment when the bill came off the Assembly floor that he would amend it to make sure it wasn't intrusive or overly broad, and to clarify "the misconception that doctors would be talking to children about things, which was never the case," the spokeswoman said. Doctors would only be talking confidentially to parents, she said. But even in amended form, the legislation opens the door to violations of privacy protected by the Constitution, legal watchdog groups report.

"All [Steinberg] is doing is taking the particular and making it more general," said Brad Dacus, president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit organization that defends religious and family rights. Dacus' watchdog group is monitoring the bill's progress. "You're still opening the door for questioning of the children," he said.

Dacus sees the bill as another attempt by legislators to broaden the government's authority over the family. The current system rewards local governments with federal dollars for every child it registers in its Child Protective Services system, he said. An example of this abuse is the fact that one California county registered a 400-percent increase in the number of children in its books over the past 10 years, he said. The overwhelming majority of parents that will be affected by the bill come from a lower income bracket, and they "will be more easily intimidated by the government agency and may even be lured to give information to the agency they would not normally give in the hope they would qualify for the services," Dacus said. "The bottom line is (that) state and local governments have no business engaging in these kinds of fish hunting expeditions to find kids who are the age of five or six that are allegedly mentally ill," Dacus said. Depending on the final wording, "we may end up challenging it in the courts on constitutional grounds as an invasion of family privacy. We're really alarmed," Dacus added.


Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) will be holding their annual convention July 21-22, 2000, in Phoenix. For more information contact them at (800) 929-3927 or at their website:


The Oregon Christian Home Education Assoc. Network (OCHEA) Conference will be held Aug. 18, 2000 in Beaverton. For more information contact them at (503) 288-1285 or email: Their website is

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