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After consulting with (4:34 in the audio) the Coalition for Responsible Home Education — an organization calling for increased government regulation and oversight of homeschooling nationwide — Georgia State Representative Bill Hitchens sponsored a bill to restrict the withdrawal of public school students to homeschool.

The bill with annotations

(a) No parent or guardian shall withdraw or remove a child from a public school for the purposes of avoiding the requirements of any law concerning mandatory attendance, school discipline, parental involvement, or parental responsibilities for the care and control of a child.

  • The school staff is apparently expected to read the parent’s mind about the purposes (intent) of the withdrawal.

(b) Upon receipt of a parent’s or guardian’s declaration of intent to enroll a child, who was previously enrolled in a public school, in a home study program pursuant to subsection (c) of Code Section 20-2-690, the local school system shall notify such public school. After such notification of the school, if the local school system determines there are reasonable grounds to believe that a parent or guardian is in violation of subsection (a) of this Code section,

  • The school will closely examine what evidence there is that the parent has been avoiding legal requirements already.
  • This evaluation will be based on what happened while the student was enrolled at the school — while the school was observing and responsible for the child.
  • Maximum effort by the school is not implemented as a normal course of events for enrolled students. It only occurs when the school is about to lose the student.
  • The decision will be left to the school system, which has a financial conflict of interest.

the local school system shall refer the matter to the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services to conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether there is any evidence of educational neglect. Such investigation may take into consideration factors including the child’s prior attendance and disciplinary record, observations from the child’s teachers and other school personnel, the child’s special educational needs, and any prior involvement of the family with law enforcement or the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services.

  • The school is never investigated for negligence by the Division of Family and Children Services or any other state agency.
  • There is no provision to remove the student from the school system that failed the student.

The underlying problem with the bill

There are two different standards being applied for protecting students. While students are enrolled in a public school, there is one level of effort by school staff to protect students from abuse. When the parent attempts to withdraw a student to homeschool, suddenly a much higher level of effort is triggered.

The problem is not with a high standard. The problem is that the high standard is not applied to the enrolled students all along, to all children equally.

If a high level of effort by school staff to protect children is going on from the time a student is enrolled — continuously — there will be no need to make a special review when the child leaves the school. Child Protective Services can continue to monitor any ongoing cases.

This bill makes clear that school staff are not required or, evidently, expected to do their legal duty as mandated reporters in the normal course of events.

The result is that public school parents are not held to the same level of scrutiny as are homeschool parents — or those wanting to homeschool. This is clear discrimination against homeschoolers.

Parents who want to withdraw their children from public school should not bear the extra burdens this bill imposes just because the public schools are negligent and not doing their duty to protect the enrolled students. And children should not be denied maximum protection just because they continue to be enrolled at a public school.