Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — A pro-family organization in Pennsylvania is expressing concern over a proposed bill that would require an investigation into homeschooling families in certain situations.
SB32 was recently presented in the Pennsylvania legislature by Senator Andrew Dinniman, and is meant to amend the Public School Code of 1949.
“The school district in which the child resides shall notify the county whenever a child enrolls in a home school program or cyber charter school, is truant or fails to register for school upon attaining compulsory school age if: (1) A child or another child in the child’s household has been the subject of a founded or indicated report or received general protective services within the last eighteen months [or] (2) The parent or other person the child resides with has been the subject of a report within the last eighteen months,” the bill outlines.
It then requires that “[u]pon receipt of the notice … , the county agency shall promptly perform a safety and risk assessment. A subsequent safety and risk assessment shall be performed if the county agency has determined that a risk of abuse exists.” The assessment investigation is to last approximately six months.
Senator Dinniman’s website explains the purpose of the bill further.
“While most students are seen by a teacher during the school days, many non-traditional or home-schooled children are not,” it states. “This bill would require a school district to notify the county Children and Youth Agency when a child is enrolled in a home-schooled or cyber-school program. The County Agency would then be required to do a risk assessment to determine whether or not a risk of child abuse exists.”
While the outline of the measure may be alarming to some, Dinniman sought to minimize concern by posting a memo about the requirements involved.
“My bill would require school districts to notify the county Child and Youth Agency when a child is enrolled in a home school program, cyber charter school, is truant or fails to register for school upon attaining compulsory school age if and only if the child, another household child, household parent or other household person has been the subject of a founded or indicated child-abuse report within the last 18 months,” he wrote, underscoring the words “if and only if.”
“If such situation exists and such notification is given, the county agency would promptly perform a safety and risk assessment at the household,” Dinniman added.
However, Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania states that the bill is still problematic.
“This bill specifically targets children who are not under daily direct control of a public school — homeschoolers and cyber schoolers,” she told Christian News Network. “Does the state have any hard evidence that kids being homeschooled in PA are under a greater threat of abuse than those in public school or is this simply a way in which the state can intrude on the lives of law abiding citizens?”
Gramley noted that the phrase “founded or indicated report” in the bill is concerning because parents that have been wrongfully reported will be placed under investigation whether there is any real evidence of abuse or not.
“[A]ccording to the language of SB 32, if a child had received ‘general protective services’ within the preceding 18 months, the family would have to be investigated. The definition for ‘general protective services’ outlined in the bill includes services for nonabuse cases,” she explained. “So, there’s no abuse allegations/no reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, yet the family would have to be investigated.”
Gramley provided an example to explain further.
“At the end of 2004, a homeschooling family in Perry County, [Pennsylvania] was investigated because they had spanked a 7-year-old boy they had recently adopted for a disciplinary problem,” she outlined. “They had been homeschooling their two children for 10 years and had taken in two foster children during this time. They eventually adopted the two boys, and the 7-year-old who was spanked was one of their adopted sons.”
“After the spanking, he went to a neighbor who disapproved of the family homeschooling their children, and reported he was being abused,” Gramley continued. “The police and CYS removed all four children from the home.”
“So, exactly how would SB 32 affect a homeschool family who is investigated for ‘child abuse’ when that ‘abuse’ simply constitutes corporal punishment?” she asked.
The American Family Association of Pennsylvania has been warning Christians throughout the state about the bill and is asking residents to contact their senator to express concern.
Senate Bill 32 currently sits in the Pennsylvania Senate Committee on Education.