November 8, 2002

Tremendous Victory in DC!

For over 16 months, homeschoolers have been fighting a bill in the District of Columbia that would have subjected three-year-olds and some two-year-olds to compulsory attendance. Home School Legal Defense Association has now received word that Bill 14-261 has been revised so that attendance for these very young children would be optional, not mandatory. This is a dramatic victory over one of the most outrageous attacks on parental rights in memory.

Soon after Councilmember Kevin Chavous introduced this unbelievable bill in June of 2001, there were several town hall meetings. HSLDA Attorney Scott Woodruff testified at the first town hall meeting. He challenged Chavous to amend his bill to make attendance voluntary. Chavous sidestepped the challenge.

Numerous opponents of the bill were prepared to testify against it at a subsequent town hall. Chavous cancelled it on short notice.

When the DC Council Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation finally announced a public hearing on the bill, Woodruff gathered together documentation and expert witnesses to show that mandatory school attendance for such a young age group was unwise and even potentially harmful. Many homeschooling parents called committee members to voice their opposition. Chavous, chair of the committee, cancelled the hearing at the last minute.

HSLDA continued to call Chavous' office at least once a week for updates. We were repeatedly told that the hearing had not yet been rescheduled. After the holiday weekend of July 4, HSLDA contacted Chavous' office and was informed that a "roundtable" (informal hearing) had been held several days before. No notice was provided to the public, in violation of the rules of the DC Council. Not surprisingly, no one testified against the bill. Chavous' staff said that since there had already been a roundtable, there would be no formal hearing.

Under Council rules, written testimony can be submitted with a certain period after a roundtable. Woodruff put together a substantial packet of written testimony from many authorities and delivered it to every committee member. He reminded the committee that if the bill passed, state control over children in DC would surpass that of one of the most notoriously statist societies of the ancient world, Sparta, and one of the most statist societies of modern times, Communist China, neither of which tried to control children under 6 years of age. He reminded the committee that HSLDA would challenge the bill's constitutionality in court if it passed.

The committee subsequently scheduled the bill for a vote on October 22. Woodruff sent a letter to all members of the committee protesting the scheduled vote on the ground that the roundtable was held without public notice. The committee cancelled the scheduled vote. During a subsequent phone call, a staffer amazed us by reporting that the bill had been amended so as to make attendance voluntary rather than mandatory.

It is possible that Chavous could change the bill again to reattach the mandatory provision. We hope and pray, however, that it is gone for good.

We are grateful to God for what certainly appears to be a tremendous victory. We also gratefully acknowledge the efforts of many others in this battle, including the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Bolling Area Home Educators, and the many homeschoolers who called and wrote to oppose this bill. We must continue to stand together whenever overzealous and misguided government officials seek to usurp parents' freedom.

For more information on the history of this legislation visit: