Things HSLDA Opposes: Criminal Background Checks for Homeschool Co-op Instructors

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on December 31, 2014.

View series intro here, and all posts here.

Here is what HLSDA had to say about House Bill 295, a 2013 bill in New Hampshire:

Summary:

House Bill (“HB”) 295 imposes the requirement of criminal background checks on employees and volunteers at recreation and “youth skill” camps. The bill is a potential problem for homeschoolers because of the overly broad definition of “youth skill camps” that could include homeschool groups.

The Senate Health, Education & Human Services committee amended the bill to define “Youth Skill Camps” as “a nonprofit or for-profit program that lasts 8 hours total or more in a year for the purpose of teaching a skill to minors. Such camps include, but are not limited to, the teaching of sports, the arts, and scientific inquiry.”

HSLDA’s Position:

Oppose unless amended to exempt homeschool related groups. HSLDA suggests that the bill be amended to include language similar to:

A “youth skill camp” does not include a group formed by or relating to home education programs.

So in a nutshell, this bill would require criminal background checks for employees and volunteers at a variety of youth camps, and HSLDA was concerned that the language was broad enough that it would require criminal background checks for those teaching in homeschool co-ops.

Let me say a word about homeschool co-ops. They take a variety of forms. When I was a girl, I was involved in a homeschool co-op that met for a morning every other week. We children were divided into classes by age to study subjects chosen by semester. The mothers served as the teachers, creating lesson plans geared to our age groups. When I was a teen I was involved in a weekly homeschool co-op that brought in professional teachers to lead classes in band, choir, and art.

I don’t see a problem with requiring background checks for those who teach in homeschool co-ops. I recently filled out a volunteer form for my daughter’s elementary school. If I want to be a chaperone at field trips, even under the supervision of teachers and other school employees, I have to have a background check. And why not? I’m glad to know that other parents chaperoning on my daughter’s field trips will have background checks on file, to prevent sex offenders or others with questionable criminal histories from having close contact with or authority over my child.

And don’t think this isn’t something that happens in homeschool groups.

I have a friend whose old homeschool group recently let a child sex offender speak at their annual homeschool graduation ceremony. He was one of the parents, and had been tried and convicted. I doubt most of the parents there knew. We saw this come up with The Old Schoolhouse scandal as well, when Paul and Gena Suarez sought to conceal the fact that a friend was being investigated for child pornography from other homeschooling families in their community. In Alabama, the founder of a homeschool “umbrella” school was arrested and convicted for child trafficking, and numerous other homeschool tutors and co-op teachers have been found guilty of child sexual abuse as well. This is a thing that happens.

I understand that requiring homeschool co-op instructors to have criminal background checks does mean paperwork. But shouldn’t it be worth a bit of paperwork to protect children from predators? The practical effects of HSLDA’s opposition to this bill would be to allow parents with questionable criminal backgrounds to teach in homeschool co-ops undetected. Once again, HSLDA seems to care very little about the actual safety and wellbeing of homeschooled children.

And yet, in their commentary on this bill’s ultimate passage, HSLDA vows to work to ensure that homeschool co-ops are not counted as youth camps, concluding that:

HSLDA will be following up on this issue and working to insure that homeschoolers interests are safeguarded.

Whose interests exactly are being safeguarded? Not the children’s, that’s for sure.

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