The Home School Court Report
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Summer 1990
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Cover Stories

Crime Bill Likely to Pass With Dangerous Child Abuse Provisions

HSLDA Announces Free Achievement Tests For Members

Major Courtroom Victory In Rhode Island Testing Case

National Home Education Research Institute Founded

Suspicious Caller

1990 Home School Leadership Conference


President's Corner

Across the States

National Center Reports

C O V E R   S T O R Y

Crime Bill Likely to Pass With Dangerous Child Abuse Provisions

The political climate in Washington, D.C. is dominated by Congressmen scrambling for reelection. A major part of that scramble is a flurry of legislation which members of Congress believe must be passed prior to the elections to give their constituents what the voters want.

This year virtually all Congressmen are doing their best to appear to be tough on crime. Savings and Loan crimes, increasing the use of the death penalty, drug crimes, and other features of various legislation are favorite topics for this cycle of election year enactments.

Unfortunately, an expansive child abuse bill, which has dangerous potential for home schoolers and parents who follow traditional approaches to child rearing which include spanking, has been blended into the Omnibus Crime Bill.

The child abuse provision directly affects those on federal property and in facilities operated under federal contracts. This would include all families living on military bases. The definition of “child abuse” in the bill includes two extraordinarily broad terms: “maltreatment” and “neglect” of children. These terms are undefined in the bill. There is good reason to believe that spanking will be considered to be “maltreatment” of a child by some officials with responsibilities to report child abuse. The term “neglect” has a familiar ring for home schoolers in many states. This term is often employed to prosecute home schoolers for "educational neglect."

The Senate has already passed its version of the crime bill, S.1970. The child abuse provision was adopted by voice vote—a procedure reserved for “non-controversial” measures.

The House Judiciary Committee recently added a virtually identical child abuse provision to its crime bill, H.R.5269. Its sponsors include a number of conservatives who usually are staunchly pro-family. For example, Congressman Bill Dannemeyer(R-CA) co-sponsored and voted for this child abuse provision.

The reality is that we have no one in Congress who is politically available to champion our cause. Without a Congressman willing to lead the charge, it is politically impossible to succeed in an attack on this vague and dangerous child abuse provision.

The only hope we have is the defeat of the entire bill in the House. The political dispute which is most likely to lead to the defeat of the legislation centers on the death penalty. The Democratic death penalty provision is currently in the bill. Many Republicans oppose it as being too restrictive. Many liberals also oppose it because they oppose any form of capital punishmen

Republicans will attempt to modify the death penalty provision to their liking. If their amendments pass, the bill will probably pass. If their amendments fail, there is at least some chance the bill will fail.

Regarding the child abuse concerns which home schoolers have, there is no realistic potential that this issue alone will cause the defeat of the bill. If there is remaining controversy over the death penalty, additional calls and letters opposing the bill because the “child abuse provisions are too vaguely defined and are dangerous to traditional parenting practices” may help sway a few votes here and there.

Frankly, it looks very bleak. Prayer is our only realistic weapon at this stage. God still deals in miracles—even in Washington, D.C.