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August 19, 2003

Daytime Curfew Defeated in Big Spring, Texas

HSLDA protects the rights of homeschoolers to teach their children at home. HSLDA also protects many other parental rights issues that affect homeschoolers, such as daytime curfews.

We believe daytime curfews are unconstitutional, since they restrict a minor's movements and unnecessarily stigmatize any student seen outside during school hours as truant. Many of the ordinances give authority to the local police to hold any minor seen outside during the day.

This has caused many problems for homeschoolers, who tend to have flexible school hours and can go to jobs and field trips during the day. As a result, when HSLDA received a call from Suzanne Haney that the Big Spring City Council was to be meeting soon for the second reading of a new daytime curfew, we immediately got involved. At first reading, the curfew passed by a 4-3 vote. Suzanne Haney, armed with HSLDA's memo describing the unconstitutionality of the proposed ordinance, helped defeated the curfew on July 22.

Below is a eyewitness account by Suzanne Haney.

"Chris,

"Thank you and your staff at HSLDA for helping Big Spring Christian Home Educators in our efforts to defeat the proposed ordinance providing for a daytime curfew. At last night's city council meeting the measure failed by a 5-2 vote. This was the second and final reading. On first reading the ordinance proposal passed by a slim 4-3 vote. The credit and glory go to our Heavenly Father, because His Spirit changed the thinking of the two council members who switched their vote from the first time!

The council chamber was packed with concerned citizens - not just home schoolers. At one point when the doomed fate of the ordinance was obvious to everyone, one of the supporters of the ordinance asked for a show of hands in the room of who supported and who opposed the curfew. Only three people present raised their hands in support. It was a dramatic moment for those of us who had prayed and worked for the defeat of the curfew.

"The evidence provided by HSLDA of the unconstitutionality of the proposed curfew played an effective part in the ultimate decision by the council. It was apparent that one council member in particular was moved to respond to item III of Mr. Mason's memorandum regarding the vagueness of the curfew. Quoting from the memorandum, he says:

If the terms of the ordinance are so ambiguous or uncertain that it cannot be understood by persons of ordinary intelligence as to the act it forbids or requires, then it denies due process and will be found to be unconstitutionally vague. Similarly, if the wording of the ordinance is such that the police officers lack certain 'minimal guidelines' by which to enforce it, the likelihood of 'arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement' increases. Kolender v. Lawson, 461 U. S. 352, 357-358 (1983).

"To say that we are elated is probably an understatement! We thank God for our Constitution and the opportunity to see it at work. We also thank God for HSLDA, Chris Klicka, James R. Mason III and their wonderful staff for standing in the gap when our basic freedoms are threatened. May God bless you all!

"Kindest regards,

"Suzanne Haney"

For more information on why HSLDA opposes daytime curfews, visit: http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/Issues/D/Daytime_Curfews.asp