The Dark Ages of Idaho Homeschooling
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…
Have you ever been driving along on a highway when suddenly forward progress slows to a crawl, or, worse yet, stalls altogether? As you creep along you finally come to an accident scene. The cars have been moved safely away, and you wonder why everyone is driving so slowly. You may even mutter something about the “Rubbernecks,” who slow down just to take a look.
But then you remember that sometimes seeing a bad accident can produce good fruit. Maybe you won’t be tempted to speed in the future. Or pass on a curve. Or drive while distracted. Hopefully the lesson learned from this experience will alter the way you drive in the future, simply because you witnessed something that left a profound influence upon you.
Homeschooling existed in Idaho in 1982, but it was a long way from mainstream. Three brothers, and their wives, began homeschooling their children in Payette, Idaho, according to their spiritual convictions. Their actions provoked a series of legal confrontations under Idaho’s compulsory attendance and truancy laws, catching these families between legal authority and their need to obey their spiritual duty.
For two years, school officials questioned these families about the parents’ educational background, the curriculum they were using, their weekly, daily and hourly schedule, their standards for measuring academic achievement, etc.
Requirements were imposed on the physical place of instruction (their homes) to ensure that they met state safety regulations for public buildings. For example, did they hold regular fire drills and have a fire escape plan? How about their home kitchens and bathrooms? Did those spaces meet state safety regulations for public buildings?
Under Idaho’s code 33-202, “otherwise comparably instructed” was to “be determined by the board of trustees of the district in which the child resided.” The trustees in the New Plymouth School District believed that they had a duty to ask questions in order to determine whether or not the children were receiving a comparable education. They drew a hard line in the sand.
There was equivocation on both sides with the children attending public school irregularly as the question of legality was weighed. Finally, in the fall of 1984 when the children once again did not attend school, officials decided to vigorously pursue the matter.
“Enroll your children in the local public school, or they will be forcefully removed from your home and you will go to jail.”
Few have the courage to stand on conviction. The Shippy families did. All six parents, including the mothers who were nursing infants at the time, were ordered jailed for six months or until compliance was secured. The men were placed in cells separate from their wives. A felon convicted of child molestation, and sentenced to only four months, occupied a nearby cell.
On January 10, 1985, armed deputies returned to the farm and in a tearful, emotionally charged scene, seized the unwilling children and physically carried them away to foster homes, where they remained until the end of the school year.
Their story played out in an Idaho courtroom, and was splashed across the front pages of most of Idaho’s newspapers. Much like a car wreck, folks slowed down to take a look, and what they saw was so horrendous that it provoked changed hearts and minds.