Monday, March 1, 2010

The Fundamental Right of Parents

“It is the natural, fundamental right of parents to determine and direct the education of their children.”

These 17 words (taken from HB 1580) are so controversial that they must not be placed in statute. So advised House counsel . . . and the House Education Committee concurred.

The Committee confirmed that the language in these 17 words is valid. The US Supreme Court has ruled that parents have this fundamental right. No one is contesting the validity of these 17 words.

But placing these 17 words, this valid Constitutional language, into statute is supposedly inappropriate. It would undermine settled law. Which settled law? The home education statute.

There have been 15 bills brought before this legislature over last 20 years to either increase or decrease regulations on home schooling families. 15 bills in 20 years! Clearly, this issue is not settled in the hearts and minds of very many people.

Actually, the problem is far bigger than disrupting settled law. This problem involves the Constitution, which is the highest law of the land. The Constitution is higher than statutory law. So if there is a contest between the two, this Constitutional language must prevail.

Re-affirming this basic fundamental right of parents:

· would prevent parents from being held to a higher standard than any other educators in the state (in violation of Art. 6, Part I of the NH Constitution);

· would prevent parents from being compelled to provide evidence against themselves (in violation of Art. 15, Part I of the NH Constitution);

· would prevent parents from having to annually prove their innocence of educational neglect.

The Education committee wants the legislature to continue to violate the natural or God-given rights of these parents in the name of some murky sense of the greater good. In this case . . to protect children from potential abuse or neglect!

These are two completely separate issues. There are laws to protect children from abuse and neglect. There are even mandatory reporting laws. If these are insufficient, then remedy must be sought within abuse and neglect statutes, not by continuing to burden good parents with unconstitutional regulation.

It is wrong to assume that anyone is guilty until proven order to protect someone else from possible harm! Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Attempting to protect children by inequitably regulating home schooling parents, only guarantees that children and their families will be harmed. Statistically, there are more good parents than bad. So, perpetuating this injustice guarantees far more harm than it could ever hope to prevent.

HB 1580 restores the compulsory attendance law to its original purpose of 1871, which is to help those children whose parents were unable to instruct them. This law was never intended to burden good parents who were exercising their natural, fundamental right to direct the education of their own children.

For those still trying to rationalize this injustice as necessary for the continuation of society, they need to remember that:

· “And every person…shall be equally under the protection of the law.” (Art. 6, Part I of NH Constitution) --This includes parents.

· No person “shall…be compelled…to furnish evidence against himself.” (Art. 15, Part I of the NH Constitution) -- Even parents.

· And that “All power resides originally in the people of this state.” (Art. 8, Part I of the NH Constitution)

This bill would help restore healthy cooperative relationship between parents, their local schools and their communities.