November 26, 2002

Kentucky Truant Officers Endorse "Best Practices"

On Monday, November 18, 2002, HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville and representatives of the Christian Home Educators of Kentucky and the Kentucky Home Education Association met with the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel (KDPP) board to review the relationship between homeschoolers and truant officers in Kentucky. The KDPP leadership frankly admitted they did not have the votes to get legislation through, and Joe Adams of CHEK reminded them that they had not been able to win in court either. Given the strength homeschoolers enjoy under current Kentucky law, the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel unanimously agreed to renew their endorsement of the "Best Practices Document" that had been drafted five years ago by CHEK, KHEA, and KDPP.

Kentucky is the only state in the Union with a Bill of Rights provision that guarantees educational freedom. No Kentucky parent can be forced to send their child to a school that they may be conscientiously opposed. This clause in the Kentucky Constitution was added in the early 1900's after much debate about the "newfangled" concept of compulsory attendance. Kentucky's legislators decided to require parents to send their children to school, but guaranteed the right of parents to keep their children out of schools they disagreed with.

That constitutional right lay dormant for many years until the "Christian schools movement" of the 1970's. Then, the Kentucky Department of Education tried to "crack down" on new, unregulated church schools. A decade of strife ended in a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in 1979, which held that Kentucky's constitution guaranteed the freedom of private education. While the legislature could impose certain minimal regulations on private schools, the Supreme Court put a stop to the real efforts to block unregulated schools.

Homeschooling in Kentucky began to grow and prosper in the 1980's, eventually attracting the attention of the KDPP. Truant officers began demanding new legislation to stop the burgeoning homeschool movement. Kentucky homeschoolers have faced one bad bill after another for the last ten years, and the last couple legislative sessions have seen pitched battles between homeschoolers and legislators who oppose homeschool freedoms. Even though the chairmen of the education committees themselves drafted two of these bad bills, they have been unable to get them out of their own committees due to fierce homeschool opposition. When Barbara Colter sponsored one too many bad bills, she lost her primary and her seat. This remarkable event has left many Kentucky legislators unwilling to oppose home education.

Even though Kentucky's truant officers have agreed to follow this Best Practices Document, very few county Directors of Pupil Personnel have ever read it. We encourage all Kentucky homeschoolers to familiarize themselves with the Best Practices Document and insist, in any dealings with local school officials, that they read it too. Homeschoolers who know their rights under the law are able to defend them, while those who are unaware of the battles that have been fought and won in the past are all too likely to let their freedoms slip between their fingers. Kentucky homeschoolers must stay united to preserve the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity!