Homeschooling has again been connected to truancy.
- ArgusLeader.com, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 27 December 2005, Legislators might close loophole in truancy law
Â A South Dakota law that allows parents to educate their children at home is being abused by parents trying to avoid legal troubles, a Sioux Falls school administrator and a prosecutor say.
The district sees about 10 cases a year in which parents file a request to home school their child to avoid being prosecuted because their child is not going to school, Smith said.
Ten cases a year?Â Out of how many students?
- Â Sioux Falls school district data profile 2004-2005
District-Elementary Schools Cumulative Enrollment:Â 9,920
District-Middle Schools Cumulative EnrollmentÂ 4,815
District-High Schools Cumulative EnrollmentÂ 6,510
Added together that makes just over 21,000 students for the year.Â And the district wants to change the law for South Dakota because of ten local cases out of 21,000?Â That seems like swatting at a midge with a hockey stick.Â Not only is that less than 1%, it is less than 1/10th of 1% and less than 1/100th of 1% and less than 1/1000th of 1%.Â It is about 0.0005% which (if my poor math skills allow) is 1/2000th.
To be sure, truancy is a problem, as shown by aÂ bulletin at the FBI’s site:Â Truancy: Not Just Kids’ Stuff AnymoreÂ Our society has developed so that, for a good part of their time, kids just don’t have a place to be other than in school, and if school doesn’t meet their needs, they can be on a path to problems in later life.Â Â But is this a continuing problem?Â Statistics from the Bureau of JusticeÂ indicate that crime is falling, and a Sioux Falls’ site indicates that in 9 out of 10 areas, Sioux Falls is doing fine.Â In light of these statistics, it seems even less necessary that South Dakota’s law be changed because of ten cases.
Also, South Dakota already has a way to keep an eye on the habitually truant, as a follow-up article shows:
- ArgusLeader.com, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 29 December 2005, Closing loophole in law might not be necessary to prevent truancy
First, we donâ€™t know how many cases there are each year in South Dakota or how widespread the problem is. Second, we already might have a solution. Costain pointed out that judges already have the authority to overrule home-school applications, even if school districts are required to accept them.
Maybe all we need to do is make sure a judge sees the home-schooling application for any family facing legal trouble for truancy. That way, itâ€™s out of the hands of the school district entirely.
Maybe what the Sioux Falls School District needs to do is work with the judiciary, as well as the state Education Department, to define the problem and seek solutions. That makes more sense than just jumping in right off the bat with a new law.
Finding and fixing the problems that ten families are having shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem, and would probably be more cost-effective than changing part of the law of an entire state.
[update:Â see comments for mathematical correction by someone who can 'do' numbers]