For Immediate Release: Children have a right to safety, liberty, and dignity
02/10/2020–The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is urging Colorado lawmakers to reject House Bill 20-1144, which would establish a “parents’ bill of rights.” HB 20-1144, which CRHE warns would negatively impact Colorado children, is sponsored by representatives Rod Pelton (R) and will come before the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on Thursday.
“Parents’ right to choose how to educate their children must be balanced with children’s right to receive an education,” says Samantha Field, a policy advocate for CRHE. “HB 20-1144 eliminates that balance.” Field says that under HB 20-1144, requirements designed to protect children, such as assessments that ensure that homeschooled children are being educated, could be seen as a violation of parents’ absolute right to direct their education.
Field warns that the ramifications of HB 20-1144 could threaten more than children’s right to an education. “In the case of children being harmed, giving parents fundamental and inalienable rights subject to strict scrutiny means rights will be denied to abused and neglected children,” says Field. “Where is the right to children’s safety, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, dignity, or the demands of their own conscience? Where is their right to be prepared to contribute to society?”
“Laws, in order to be effective, must acknowledge the reality that harm happens to innocents, and one of the Colorado government’s responsibilities is to protect its innocent citizens against harm,” says Field. “Not every child, not even every homeschooled child, has an idyllic childhood.” Field points to numerous cases where children homeschooled in Colorado have experienced severe abuse, including 7-year-old Genesis Sims, whose body was found buried in her parents’ crawlspace in Monument, Colorado, and a blind, autistic teenager in Longmont, Colorado, who was experiencing kidney failure due to long term starvation when his abuse was discovered. “A 2014 study found that 47% of school-aged child torture victims were removed from school to be homeschooled,” says Field. “These children need more rights, not less.”
Field warns that HB 20-1144 would create a heavy legal imbalance between the rights of children and the rights of parents in the state of Colorado, leaving significant unchecked power in the hands of abusive parents that would prevent minor children from accessing help in a crisis. The impact on homeschooled children, she says, would be especially significant.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.