Idaho Homeschool History
The Dark Ages of Idaho Homeschooling
by Linda Patchin
Idaho Code 33-202 in the 1980’s and early 1990’s read:
33-202 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COMPULSORY…Unless the child is otherwise comparably instructed, as may be determined by the board of trustees of the school district in which the child resides, the parent or guardian shall cause the child to attend a public, private or parochial school…
Once things quieted down in the New Plymouth school district, home education in Idaho began to grow in popularity. There were isolated instances of saber rattling, but they mainly served as notice for homeschool families who had the option of moving. For instance, there were folks who moved from the Boise School District to the Meridian School District, simply because Meridian took a less aggressive stance on home education.
Idaho Code stated that comparable education was to be determined by the school trustees in the district of the child’s residence. In layman’s terms, that simply meant that one district may take a very hard stance, while another ignored its homeschooling families altogether.
One significant case arose in 1990, when the Boise school district sent an investigator to two homes, asking many questions about the “comparable education” the children were receiving. The two families attended the same church as a young homeschool father who was an attorney and they asked him whether or not they had to answer the investigator’s questions.
That attorney, Barry Peters, studied the issues involved. He determined that the case hinged on criminal penalties for truancy and the parents’ “Miranda” rights. You probably know the words, if you’ve ever watched a cop show on TV. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law….” He took their case.
The first decision was unacceptable to both sides and was appealed to District Juvenile Court. The presiding judge made three important points in his ruling:
- First of all, the district could ask all the questions that it wanted.
- Secondly, the parents had the right to decline to answer.
- Finally, the parents had the right to a presumption of innocence.
Unless the prosecutor had substantive evidence that the kids were not being educated, the parents were not guilty of educational neglect.
This small victory produced a paradigm shift. Rather than being presumed guilty, homeschooling parents had a right to a presumption of innocence. The burden of proving educational neglect fell upon the prosecution. The tide was turning.
Barry Peters established a reputation for integrity, and thoughtful deliberation. He caught the attention of the fledgling Home School Legal Defense Association, and the Idaho Legislature. A new calling was placed upon his capable shoulders.
Continued next week….