DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa is well-known as being friendly to homeschoolers, but that could change if a bill requiring four government-approved home visits each year becomes law.
The bill by Democratic state Sen. Matt McCoy was introduced in response to the death of 16-year-old Natalie Finn, who died of cardiac arrest in October after starving to death. Her parents were charged in her death and remain in jail.
Neighbors had reported their concerns about the girl to police five months prior to her death. She was not enrolled in school.
McCoy’s bill, S.F. 138, would require the board of directors of each school district to “conduct quarterly home visits to check on the health and safety of children located within the district who are receiving competent private instruction or private instruction.”
“Home visits shall take place in the child’s residence with the consent of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian and an interview or observation of the child may be conducted,” the bill states.
If parents refuse permission, then the school district can get a court order to enter the home.
Attorney Scott Woodruff of the Home School Legal Defense Association called the bill “a well-intended but misguided response.” Woodruff sent a letter to Iowa state senators urging them to reject the bill and instead to focus on the findings of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF).
“The report listed numerous risk factors,” Woodruff wrote. “Homeschooling was never listed as a risk factor – or even mentioned.”
The report found that a prior report to social services is the “single strongest predictor of a child’s potential risk for injury death … before age 5.”
The problem, Woodruff asserted, is that local officials did not notice “the numerous abuse-neglect reports related to Natalie’s family.”
“Senator McCoy’s bill completely misses the risk factors identified in the CECANF report and instead focuses on an issue – homeschooling – that does not warrant even one mention in the report,” Woodruff wrote.
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