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  • Why We Should Work Together

    Filed at 10:27 am under by Scott Somerville

    We have our differences, folks, but they are small compared to our shared interests. Here’s evidence:

    New Jersey–Daytime Curfew Defeated!

    July 19, 2006

    Dear HSLDA members and friends:

    Last night the council of the Borough of Washington rejected the proposed daytime curfew on a 5-1 vote. Your help made a difference!

    This defeat is especially important because Washington Borough appears to be the first municipality in the state to attempt to enact a daytime curfew. If it had succeeded, it could have emboldened other municipalities to follow suit.

    Homeschool families turned out to pack the hearing room. The council and members of the press heard nearly two hours of testimony, including the testimony of Mark August, President of the Education Network of Christian Homeschoolers. The testimony was almost exclusively against the ordinance.

    The hearing and the vote were the climax, but it was built on the efforts of many.

    Carolee Adams worked quietly with individual members of the council (and also testified at the hearing) to explain why it should not become law. HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff sent an eight-page legal memorandum to council members and the council attorney explaining how
    the ordinance jeopardized freedoms protected under the constitution.

    This ordinance appeared to have significant momentum. Homeschoolers worked together with a passion to protect freedom, however, and turned the momentum the other way.

    Thank you for standing with us for freedom.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Scott A. Woodruff, Esq.
    Home School Legal Defense Association

    One of my best friends from high school is on the board of the New Jersey Civil Liberties Union. I’ve talked to him in the past about these daytime curfews. All I can get from the ACLU is a tepid response: daytime curfews are “troubling” but they generally can’t be troubled to do anything about them. Where were they when the Borough of Washington decided to make it a crime to be a child in a public place? I hear them scream about racial profiling–where’s the outrage over this new offense called “walking while young”?

    If the ACLU had the courage of their convictions, we homeschoolers might not need to stick together. I’ve spent years trying to persuade progressive homeschoolers to systematically lobby the ACLU to take on homeschool cases–with no takers. Maybe that’s because they know John Holt tried tried to do just that, way back in the 1960s–with no results.

    6 Responses to “Why We Should Work Together”

    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 20th, 2006
    at 10:47 am

    What kind of “homeschool cases” would you have them take on? There are some home educators who are members of that organization.

    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 20th, 2006
    at 11:02 am

    Nice hat, Daryl! (I’m jealous–and waiting for my gravatar to get clearance.)

    The BIG cases that I care about are child protective services and custody battles. I got a call from a friend of mine who is handling a divorce case–mom has lost custody, largely due to homeschooling. The Fourth Amendment cases out to be the ACLU’s bread and butter, but except for an amicus brief in my Stumbo case in North Carolina a few years back, they’ve been mute as the tomb on the privacy of the home when there are children are in the home.

    The other juicy cases I want them in on are Welfare families and minority homeschoolers. We get a LOT of action on these, and we deal with them one at a time. The ACLU would be a big help in the cases where the underlying issue seems to be “homeschooling is fine for two-parent Republican families, but a single urban mother can’t do this.”

    Then there are the “getting back into school” cases. HSLDA doesn’t help people go BACK to school, but there are tons of cases we could take if we did. Time after time, school districts punish kids for their parents’ choices. It’s wrong and an obvious loser for the school district–but they get away with it.

    Shall I go on?

    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 20th, 2006
    at 12:16 pm

    Back in 1967, when John Holt was begging them to take on homeschool cases, homeschooling was more Marxist than religious. The big names were A.S. Neill, Ivan Ilyich, and the likes. If the ACLU had taken on the fight back then, Christian homeschoolers like me would be in a very different position today.

    So the ACLU perceives homeschoolers as a conservative/religious monolith. That’s factually false. It’s not in the ACLU’s interest to get this one wrong, either. But who’s going to change that perception?

    Comment by
    Scott Somerville
    July 20th, 2006
    at 12:30 pm

    Mary, if you’ll reread Scott Woodruff’s letter, you’ll see it says “Borough of Washington,” in order to distinguish it from all the others, like “Washington Township.” That’s precise, not vague.

    As for the ACLU’s indifference to homeschooling… I documented that in “The Politics of Survival.” Here’s the quote from John Holt’s letter, published in an early issue of “Growing Without Schooling”:

    Dear Mr. Neier—Thanks very much for your kind invitation to take part in your National Convocation on Free Speech on June 13….

    I think that compulsory attendance laws, in and of themselves, constitute a very serious infringement of the civil liberties of children and their parents. This would be true, I feel, no matter what schools were like, how they were organized, or how they treated children, in short, even if they were far more humane and effective than they actually are.

    Beyond that, there are a number of practices, by now very common in schools all over the country, which in and of themselves seriously violate the civil liberties of children, including … [Holt goes on to list ten common practices in the public schools. Some of these have since been prohibited by case law or statute, others remain common to this day].

    … As long as such outrages go on, I can’t get very excited about such issues as the controlling of violence and sex on TV, the rating of motion pictures, the censorship of student publications, or the banning of textbooks and library books on various grounds. People who argue strongly about such things, while accepting without protest the practices I here complain about, seem to me to be straining at gnats while swallowing camels….

    To return once more to the matter of compulsory school attendance in its barest form, I think you will agree that if the government told you that on 180 days of the year, for six or more hours a day, you had to be at a particular place, and there do whatever people told you to do, you would feel that this was a gross violation of your civil liberties. The State justifies doing this to children as a matter of public policy, saying that this is the only way to get them educated. Even if it were true that children were learning important things in schools, and even if it were true that they could not learn them anywhere else (neither of which I believe), I would still insist that since in other (and often more difficult) cases the ACLU does not allow the needs of public policy as an excuse for violating the basic liberties of citizens, it ought not to in this case. (Holt, 1978, p. 44)

    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    July 20th, 2006
    at 12:38 pm

    The ACLU only takes cases, not causes. IOW, there has to be an individual charged with some kind of crime or prevented from doing something under the law that the ACLU lawyers view as a violation of our civil rights. They don’t typically take 9th or 10th Amendment cases. A lot of our arguments on the right to homeschool are based on either or both of those amendments. So I can see why they would be reluctant to join a suit. I just don’t believe it’s a left/right thing. They did, after all, defend the Nazis in Skokie.

    Custody cases would normally be beyond the purview of the org. Ditto CPS.

    And I don’t see how the getting back into schools is a federal issue. Every state has their own rules for their own schools. Federalism, remember?

    OTOH, 4th Amendment cases are their bread and butter (after 1st Amendment, of course). If there was a violation of search and seizure, they should be willing to at least take a look.

    I am not a lawyer though I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU

    P.S. BTW, I’m wearing that hat as I type this (running out the door),

    Comment by
    JJ Ross
    July 21st, 2006
    at 11:08 am

    Our individual differences are because we’re human, not because we’re homeschooling. In my view of the world, human differences aren’t resolveable into one big homogenous community of any belief, party, practice or preference, and most of our choice conflicts are really about how to live with that fact.

    If the ACLU or HSLDA, Congress or my local school board or teacher’s union, any party or candidate or person, persuades me they see human differences as strength rather than weakness and will stand firm for every person’s right to enjoying those differences unmolested by society or state, then I give my support. Otherwise not.