Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't you care about children who might fall through the cracks?

This is a reply to those legislators who are concerned about the potential for abuse and neglect of children by parents who choose to homeschool. There is no requirement in the NH home education law that the children have contact with anyone outside the family. A parent could exploit this lack of requirements to hide abuse or neglect – physical, emotional, educational. This is also a reply to legislators who express concern about the few children who are falling through the cracks, and who ask homeschoolers the question, "Don't you care about them?"

In response to concerns about the potential for abuse and neglect, I do not dispute them. It has happened, and probably will happen again. Any time an individual has a freedom, there is the potential for him or her to abuse another person's rights. The question is, does that potential rise to the level that requires the state to impinge on that liberty?

The people who wrote our constitutions believed that it was self-evident that people have the right to pursue happiness, and that they give up that right only when there is good cause. They created a form of government that would best allow people to exercise that right, and they enumerated many of the rights that they thought would best allow people to maintain that right. Subsequently, the courts found that our U.S. constitution gives people a fundamental right to privacy that encompasses the right to direct the upbringing of their children, and that right may only be encumbered in a way that meets the strict scrutiny test.

Legislators don't have to take our word, they can read the words of learned Supreme Court justices. Here is a link to a website with excerpts from relevant SCOTUS opinions, and below that are links to the actual decisions:


As another homeschooler pointed out, the following quotes are pertinent to the points raised by these legislators:

The law's concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life's difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.

The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.

Simply because the decision of a parent is not agreeable to a child or because it involves risks does not automatically transfer the power to make that decision from the parents to some agency or officer of the state.

- Parham v. J. R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979)


I ask three questions of legislators with the above concerns:

  • "Our constitution tips the balance to the side of liberty. Does the particular regulation you are voting on meet the strict tests set by the courts that would justify taking away any liberty?"
  • "Why, if the vast majority of homeschooling parents are doing a good job, does NH have a law that assumes the state must scrutinize every parent?"
  • "Don't you care about depriving children of benefits if parents are not allowed to educate their children in the way that is best for them?"

Chris Hamilton

BeaverLodge Homeschool