Rep. Bill Hitchens (Photo: Georgia House)

Under a new bill filed in the Georgia House of Representatives, parents who want to pull their children out of public school to instead homeschool would have to provide additional documentation to the school and prove the transition is not to avoid legal obligations.

The measure is sponsored by Republicans Bill Hitchens, Jon Burns, Wes Cantrell, and Ron Stephens and was filed Wednesday. It comes on the heels of a horrifying story out of Effingham County where two children were found buried in the yard of the family home after being absent from school for an extended period of time. Hitchens, Burns, and Stephens are from the Effingham County region. 

House Bill 530 seeks to provide more regulation of the transition to homeschooling process. Current law only requires that parents notify the Georgia Department of Education if a family decides to homeschool, but the new legislation would require the local school system to be notified as well.

Specifically, the bill would require a DFCS be launched at the request of the public school if a child:

  1. Is withdrawn from school without notification or
  2. Stops attending school for an attended period of time and cannot be located or
  3. Notification if offered but a public school believes the intent to withdraw the student to avoid legal requirements of mandatory attendance, parental involvement, school discipline, or parental responsibilities for the care and control of a child.

House Bill 530 reads:

“No parent or guardian shall withdraw or remove a child from a public school for the purposes of avoiding the requirements of any law concerning mandatory attendance, school discipline, parental involvement, or parental responsibilities for the care and control of a child.”

If a parent does notify a school system of intent to withdraw the child for homeschooling, the public school can refer the family to DFCS for investigation if there are “reasonable grounds” that the parent is trying to avoid the legal requirements.

How the purposeful avoidance of the requirements of law would be identified is not outlined in the bill.

But the bill does allow DFCS to use additional factors in the investigation of whether or not parents are avoiding legal obligations, by considering the child’s prior attendance and disciplinary record, observations from the child’s teachers and other school personnel, the child’s special educational needs, and any prior involvement of the family with law enforcement.

The bill has been assigned to the House Juvenile Justice committee. You can contact the sponsors of the bill by email: 

jon.burns@house.ga.gov
wes.cantrell@house.ga.gov
ron.stephens@house.ga.gov
bill.hitchens@house.ga.gov

You can read the bill below.

HB 530_2019
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10 COMMENTS

  1. I am a parent who home educates three children. We are in regular contact with hundreds of law-abiding and diligent parents who home educate in Georgia. If you aren’t in those “circles” then you may be ignorant of how large this community is. I don’t have time to write a thorough reply and need to take a deep calming breath before replying anyway. I regularly consult with parents who are frustrated with the public school system and are seeking help for how to better their children’s education through homeschooling. This bill is a knee jerk reaction and will put further burdens on an already overburdened system. Not to mention the infringing on parents rights that should be protected with the utmost vigilance. I must wrap it up since my daughter as been patiently waiting for her math lesson as I type this. Please oppose this bill! It is NOT a correct response to the horrible case it is intending to prevent from recurring.

  2. Wonderful intent, but this is bringing Georgia down a path of socialism similar to what Oregon and Washington are proposing right now.

  3. I oppose this bill! I agree that the deaths of the two children in Effingham County is a tragic situation, however this bill would not keep something similar from happening again. It would be a huge burden on our already stressed to the max DFCS and the local school systems.
    What will be the measuring stick used for proving “reasonable grounds”?
    Sings of more government in families business! We don’t need more, we need less.

  4. While there are, very unfortunately, a few parents who do use the system’s current regulations to deal with truancy issues, it is a very slight number. Schools are likely already familiar with these families as they are repeatedly doing this. There is nothing that prevents the school from already contacting DFCS in this situation. This is an educational point for school administrators, that they can still make a report to DFCS in situations where they feel there is a concern. It should not need to become a law that burdens an already overworked government entity, or that puts schools in a position where they feel they need to report EVERY family that decides to homeschool, for fear of being held liable. The intent is a worthy one, but the solution is cumbersome and will likely create more problems than it would prevent.

  5. Parents who home school already have to notify the Department of Education by signing a notice of intent every year. We had to pull our son out of public school after an injury that caused him to miss 6 weeks of school. In order to keep him on track and not lose a school year, we decided to home school. We had 30 days to complete the notice of intent once we made that decision. So, notification is in place.

    What I think is more important is to allow home schooled students access to extracurricular activities within the public school system. Florida allows a student access to these activities, why doesn’t Georgia? We still are required to pay taxes to support the local school districts where we live but our children can’t participate in activities with their peers.

  6. If the state is not removing the family’s right to homeschool and there is no law being broken, what is calling DFCS going to do? DFCS investigates incidents of child abuse and neglect. A referral should only be made to DFCS if there is reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected. Our local DFCS is already overwhelmed. I am certain that many DFCS offices across Georgia are over burdened as well. Georgia has pretty relaxed requirements for homeschoolers, but now it is going to jump to reporting families to DFCS when the decision is made to transition to home school their children. Instead, if the school system thinks that laws are being broken or it is an attempt to get around the law, involve the police. DFCS is not the police. When the police go out and investigate, if they need to contact DFCS, they will.

  7. Please appeal this bill. As homeschool mom I believe this bill is bot what Georgia needs. There are other ways you can protect children without jeopardizing the whole homeschooling community. Most homeschool families are teaching our children at home so that they receive the education they need as well as protecting them from on going changes in school systems. So much goes on in the school system. Dont let a few awful situations reflect on the homeschooling community as a whole. There are far more children being abused and neglected in the public school system than in the homeschooling community. You can not compare the homeschooling community to the public schools. Our children are our main concern. We want to ensure that their needs are met. This does not always happen in public or even private schools. DFCS are already overloaded. Im certain a school can tell the difference between a child struggling in school to a child being abused. You can alert the proper authorities when need be without changing the system for everyone in the homeschooling community. Most parents who have taken their child out of public school fo it for the wellbeing of our child. If the school already sees signs of abuse then they should have reported it ling befofe they decided to homeschool.

  8. There are more cases of public school bomb threats and shootings than anything. So my question is what is being said or done about preventing this? This case of the children is very unfortunate, but this case is being used as another ploy to get into family business. I am starting to notice that homeschooling is becoming popular, because parents are concerned for the safety of their children. The government has taken notice to this and probably want to discourage parents from taking THEIR children out of public school. I oppose! I am amazed at the fact that parents are having to get “permission” to do what’s best for OUR children. Really?!

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