Monday, March 8, 2010

An Open Letter to NH State Representatives

Dear Representative:

Please support HB 1580, an act relative to home schooling.

New Hampshire’s compulsory attendance law was created to protect neglected children, whose parents were derelict in their duty to instruct them. Responsible parents make provision for the instruction of their children, whether in public schools, private academies, or at home. Only negligent parents needed compulsion to remind them of the importance of this duty. When parents fail in their duty to provide for their children, the state is required to intervene and provide an adequate education.

In 1871, this “Duty of parents” to instruct their children was established in a compulsory attendance law. It unequivocally allowed parents to instruct their children “at home,” exempting them from compulsory attendance, which at the time required 12 weeks per year from ages 8 to 14. There were no restrictions placed upon home instruction; parents were presumed innocence until proven guilty.

The obligation to furnish this education rests primarily upon the parent. (Public Education in the United States, 1919, p. 18)

The child is to be educated, not to advance his personal interests, but because the State will suffer if he is not educated. The State does not provide schools to relieve the parent, nor because it can educate better than the parent can, but because it can thereby better enforce the obligation which it imposes. (Public Education in the United States, 1919, p. 19)

Consider how things have changed.

In 1990 home schooling parents were intimidated by threats of ever increasing regulations if they didn’t compromise their right to due process and equal treatment under the law. As they have learned in the interim: compromise only leads to more requests for compromise, never resolution.

Under this new home education law, RSA 193-A, responsible parents are presumed guilty of educational neglect unless they annually proved themselves innocent. Showing any sign of academic failure endangers a home program. This restricts the parent’s ability to seek outside help should any problems arise, which further confounds the problem.

For twenty years parents have suffered under this inequitable and adversarial law. During their sub-committee session on HB 1580 even the House Education Committee acknowledged that the home education law, specifically RSA 193-A: 6 is unconstitutional.

When a home educated child “does not demonstrate educational progress for age and ability at a level commensurate with his ability” as required under RSA 193-A: 6 III, he risks termination of his home program.

When a child fails in public schools, a less confrontational approach is taken to develop individualized programs, or to suggest a different leveling placement that might be more effective.

Why not adopt this less confrontational approach for home schoolers? Instead of regulations full of threats and punishments for failure to learn, why not freely offer assistance to parents? Don’t we all want what is best for these children? Where is our sense of cooperation? How can children learn under an adversarial system?

Please give your strongest support to HB 1580. Help establish equitable laws that encourage cooperation with parents who trying to responsibly instruct their children. 24 states have already adopted a cooperative attitude towards home instruction, including CT, NJ, IL, TX, DE, IN, MI, AK, ID, KY, OK, MO, AL, MS, WI, NE, KS, NM, WY, MT, UT, NV, AZ and CA.

HB 1580 restores the presumption of innocence for all parents who instruct their children at home. It restores the purpose of the original compulsory attendance law, while other, more appropriate laws, resolve problems of abuse and neglect.

More information can be found on the NH Parents First website:


NH Homeschool Legal Defense League


NH Parents First was formed to provide research and support for legislation to promote education freedom in New Hampshire. It was founded upon the belief that a parent's duty to instruct his child supersedes the state's duty.

NH Homeschool Legal Defense League has several hundred politically active families located across New Hampshire. It was formed in 2008 in response to repeated attempts by the legislature to restrict the way parents are able to choose to raise their children.