Guest Column: Truancy ordinance violates home-schooled students’ rights

As a homeschooler, I’ve been following this daytime curfew ordinance in Rockford with some concern. I don’t live in Rockford, and after reading the information (“Committee lays over proposed truancy ordinance”) about this ordinance, I have little desire to visit Rockford.

It appears this ordinance was put into place to do the school district’s/Boone-Winnebago Regional Office of Education’s job. There are funds/job positions in place in the school district and the Regional Office to oversee truancy of public school students. It also appears that an ordinance was approved without a funding plan, and one is being devised now. I hope that, as reported in your article, my state taxes do not become part of this poorly-planned city effort. Top that with the unappealing prospect of paying increased sales taxes for this project in order to visit educational sites in Rockford, and many might say, “No thanks.” The school district’s generosity in “chipping in” $100,000 for the job they are supposed to be doing anyway might be underestimated.

Quite a deal for the school district, but what about the kids? The truant kids will be performing community service and paying fines. If truancy (not attending school) was the problem, then why doesn’t any of the punishment have to do with education: “reading, writing and arithmetic”?

And last, but certainly not least for me, I would have to agree with Deputy Chief Lindmark that “Homeschooling was really not a problem.” But this ordinance made it a problem for homeschoolers every time they are stopped to be “verified.” Does verification mean a trip home in the back of the police car? The school office has the name, phone number and address of truant public school students. But yet, the fundamental right of free movement to participate in legitimate activities isn’t possible for all students from 7-17 years of age in Rockford now.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said these words about some civil rights many years ago in a letter from a Birmingham jail. It seems fitting now regarding kids’ basic rights without negating the racial struggle of that time.

“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”

Susan Ryan is a homeschooling mother who lives in Farmer City, Ill.

From the Oct. 11-17, 2006, issue

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