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August 3, 2006

Homeschool Privacy Quietly Wins Big

On June 1, homeschool privacy scored a huge “win” when Governor Vilsack signed a bill that provides complete confidentiality for homeschool records in Iowa.

Several years ago, Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) analyzed Iowa and federal law and determined that neither protected the privacy of Iowa families’ homeschool records on file with local school systems. This made the information in those records accessible to anyone, even those with questionable intentions, and without parental knowledge or consent. In close partnership with the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE), we began taking steps to address this problem.

In 2002, we contacted the Iowa Department of Education. While they acknowledged the problem, provided valuable feedback, and were generally sympathetic, they would not make a commitment to work with us to solve the problem with new legislation. HSLDA and NICHE moved ahead without their active support.

In 2003, we drafted privacy legislation and obtained a sponsor, but a bill was not filed. In 2005 we came back harder, and House Study Bill 243 was filed and had significant support. It became House File 740 and passed the House of Representatives unanimously, but did not make it through the Senate before the legislature closed.

In 2006 we knocked on the door again. NICHE’s Justin LaVan worked hard and succeeded in getting our privacy language attached as an amendment to a large educational bill. Although we never asked families to make phone calls or contact their representatives, we were carefully watching its progress. Several key lawmakers made crucial contributions to keep the privacy language in the bill, especially Representative Jodi Tymeson (R-District 73).

A late attempt to eliminate the privacy language from the bill failed, and with little fanfare the legislature passed and the governor signed the biggest leap forward for privacy in the history of Iowa homeschooling. The records of homeschool students now have exactly the same state law protection as public school student records.

As an epilogue, this situation sparked HSLDA to work toward a solution at the federal level as well. We have filed a bill in congress that, if passed, would grant homeschool families privacy rights under federal law in all states.