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March 4, 2010
First Year of Expanded Freedom Clouded

As the school year draws to a close, Idaho families can celebrate completion of their first year of homeschooling under the expanded freedoms that went into effect on July 1, 2009.

Senate Bill 1017’s unanimous passage in both houses and subsequent gubernatorial approval:

  1. Removed the requirement that private home instruction be “comparable” to public-school instruction;
  2. Clarified that homeschoolers do not have to teach a specified number of hours or days per year; and
  3. Clarified that parents personally are not required to deliver all the instruction.

Unfortunately, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare took this opportunity to increase pressure on homeschool families. After the enactment of S.B. 1017, the Department revised its “Intake/Screening” protocol so that, in effect, a parent accused of not educating his child has the burden of proving his innocence—even if the accusation is not entitled to any credibility.

HSLDA recently assisted a family accused of not educating their children in southeast Idaho. The accusations were anonymous, and therefore not worthy of belief. Nonetheless, the social worker insisted that legal action would be taken against the family unless they proved they were innocent. She threatened to turn the case over to the local prosecutor.

Faced with this threat, and based on personal reasons of their own, the family showed the social worker their school books. The social worker promptly agreed that all the accusations were false. The family was completely vindicated.

But a family should not be forced to demonstrate their innocence unless the accusation against them is entitled to credibility. Attorney Barry Peters of the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators (ICHE) and HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff are working to rectify this situation.