Idaho Homeschool History
by Linda Patchin
Idaho Code 33-202 in the 1980’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…
Society has some selfish interest in seeing that everyone…gets some education. A parent who denies his child an education cripples that child for life…and the government, the community, owes that child protection from such a parent, even if that means stashing such parents in jail.
Lewiston Morning Tribute, December 3, 1984
An Idaho Statesman, December 4, 1984 article declared that the Shippy’s were “challenging a basic tenet of our society” and claimed that they “brought it on themselves,” that compulsory attendance laws are “meant to ensure an enlightened and productive society” implying that the state was rescuing the children from an unwanted, simplistic lifestyle.
Letters to the editor assured readers that homeschooled children would end up on welfare, isolated and illiterate, or worse yet in prison. We were assured that the state would never jail parents or break up families without just cause, and that these curious non-conformists must represent a threat to their own children, if not the community at large.
But as in most things, there was another side to the story. Their neighbors told of a close-knit, loving family. Dairy farmers with a successful land-leveling and irrigation construction business, who attracted more business, by word-of-mouth, than the three brothers could handle. Representative Robert Forrey said that the judge who presided in the case told him that he didn’t know of a “finer, more upstanding, honest, productive family in the community.”
Idaho Congressman, Larry Craig, talked about the rules that the school district tried to impose upon the Shippy families. He said that they were, “quite rigid and were obviously written to discourage home teaching. I am sure they were written to keep as many children in public school as possible because the amount of state and federal aid to the district is determined by attendance.”
In an ironic twist of fate, while the school district argued over whether or not the family homes met fire code standards for public buildings, their own high school building burnt to the ground one night.
Eventually, all three families moved to another school district, and their homes were so far away from civilization that the school trustees in the new district did not want to send the school bus that far to pick up the children. The Shippy families and their homeschools were safe.
What did their passive act of civil disobedience produce? Cavett Robert, once rightly stated that, “Character is the ability to maintain a resolution once the mood in which it was made has passed.” The Shippy families had that type of conviction. It turns out there were other Idaho homeschool families who also did.
They stayed indoors during public school hours. They kept their blinds drawn. They devised elaborate plans for sending their children away in the event that they ever faced an ultimatum similar to the one that the Shippy families faced. They told enquirers that their children attended a private school. Yes, a very private and exclusive school.
Some folks questioned the need for such an excessive show of force being applied to law-abiding citizens. But eventually most Idahoans forgot about the Shippy families.
“Move along folks. Nothing to see here.”
And yet, these three families, acting upon their convictions, helped bring freedom for us all!
To be continued next week…