I was looking through Illinois homeschool news on Google the other day and a news item from Stark County was staring at me. It was posted on the HSLDA site as a resolved issue. I don’t see it the same way HSLDA does in their news ditty.
Dr. Bruce Dennison, Bureau-Henry-Stark County Regional Office of Education Superintendent (for much too long) became notorious in the homeschool community with his shenanigans aimed at scaring homeschoolers back into the schools. Here’s some examples starting in 2002:
Children flee homeschool cop
Parents warned: ‘I could have your kids taken away’
The homeschooled boys have been on edge, says their father Roger, since a truant officer came to the family’s front door Oct. 3 and warned, "I could have your children taken away."
The Channells have been homeschooling their boys for five years without a hint of concern from public school officials. Like other Illinois homeschoolers, they’ve responded to any official inquiry with a brief letter stating that they comply with the law by teaching, in English, all the branches of education taught in public schools.
Dennison is still an elected ROE Superintendent there. I’ve haven’t seen or heard about an official inquiry in my neck of the woods (ROE). I’d be shocked if our family or neighboring homeschool families had an official inquiry. It appears the homeschool environment differs in the Bureau, Stark and Henry counties of Illinois.
Continuing with the article from 2002 because this gets to the heart of the
Burger King v. Wendy’s
[Homeschooler] Severson contends that giving the regional superintendent any authority over homeschooling is a conflict of interest.
"If you’re homeschooling, the superintendent is your competition," she said. "It would be like Burger King telling Wendy’s you have to do certain things a certain way, or I’m not going to approve you."
Public schools in Severson’s area miss out on receiving about $5,500 or $6,000, depending on the district, for every school-age child that does not enroll.
"You can’t have somebody [in charge] who has something to gain by saying, "Declined. You’re done,’" Severson said.
After all the 2002 ROE outrages and a message (albeit short term) sent from the homeschool community that Dennison was legally out of bounds, here’s what
Bully Superintendent Dennison had to say in 2004. Ht to Home Education Mag:
Should home schooling be monitored from outside the home?
"I want every child to receive as full an education as they possibly can," explains Bruce Dennison, Regional Superintendent of public schools for Bureau, Henry, and Stark counties.
"Every child in Illinois needs to be in school if they’re between the ages of seven and 16."
That school can be at home, and Dennison’s not opposed to letters, phone calls even home visits to make sure schooling is taking place.
"Regional superintendents do have the authority and the responsibility to see that children are going to school."
Severson says that’s not true when it comes to home schoolers. She calls Dennison’s actions harassment, citing an Illinois law which considers home schools to be private schools.
"I don’t think they need to be monitored. I don’t think they need to be tested. I don’t think that they need to report or show curriculum," replies Severson. "I think that they need to be left alone, and it will all come out in the end when they apply to college."
God Bless Carol Severson, homeschool advocate extraordinaire. However, there is a problem in those counties (and others) that have not been resolved. Homeschoolers are laying low and apparently problems are still occurring since 2002. This is not just from HSLDA news, but on Illinois homeschool lists over the years.
What problems are resolved for the homeschool community if, as HSLDA reports "similar tactics against homeschoolers [occur] on and off over the last 10 years"? Their news release says that " HSLDA has been able to resolve them all", but the message seems compromised if those 3 counties are still dealing with similar tactics from Dennison.
How can HSLDA be sure that all harassment of homeschoolers by this particular ROE/Dennison and State’s Attorney have been resolved? Despite some attempted arrangements by Dennison and HSLDA’s Chris Klicka to require HSLDA membership during the 2002 dust-up, not all homeschoolers in that area belong to HSLDA. That complication detailed below in the Illinois Leader seemed unnecessary and without thought of the repercussions. (IL Leader is out of business now)
Monday, November 18, 2002 By The Leader-Chicago Bureau
While some IL homeschoolers have been protected by an arrangement between Dennison and HSLDA, others wonder what will happen if their regional superintendent tries the same thing?
BUREAU COUNTY — Regional Superintendent Bruce Dennison and Home School Legal Defense Association attorney Chris Klicka arrived at a plan that Klicka’s office in Virginia is calling "the first step" in setting up "a conversation" between home schooling families and the Bureau, Stark and Henry counties’ regional superintendent.
"HSLDA has agreed to represent the families who have been contacted by Dennison in Bureau, Stark and Henry Counties thus far," Mike Reitz, assistant to Klicka said today. "We are doing this to take the heat off our families, but by no means is this situation settled," Reitz said.
Dennison and Klicka agreed last week that if any family in Dennison’s jurisdiction of Bureau, Stark and Henry counties would become members of the legal defense group, HSLDA will become an agent providing what Dennison wants: "burden of proof" that they are, indeed, obeying the compulsory attendance law by having their children "attend school" from ages 7 to 16.
Carol Severson, home schooling mother in the area and Home School Coordinator for Eagle Forum of Illinois is not happy with the arrangement.
"While this may be a good arrangement for the families directly involved in this problem, what will happen to the other families throughout the state who aren’t members of HSLDA?" Severson asked today. "What will happen when Dennison tells his colleagues in the regional superintendents network what he was able to arrange?"
I think that concern from Carol Severson was and is very valid.
I think that Dennison and his cronies should be dealt with by the Illinois homeschool community rather than families thinking they need to buy HSLDA memberships for protection. 10 years of on and off harassment and bullying from schools and state’s attorneys doesn’t make for a comfortable homeschool environment, let alone resolution of the problem.
A 1974 IL Supreme Court decision concerning the Scoma family has been blasted about the Illinois Regional Offices of Education as their excuse to harass homeschoolers. This honing in on an irrelevant ruling by the ISBE stemmed from an IL State Board of Education Legal Memorandum that is the school legal wonks opinion. It seems based on a strong desire to oversee homeschoolers.
Reassurance and protection doesn’t need to come from a membership to a legal organization located in Virginia. By knowing your rights and responsibilities as an individual Illinois homeschooler, we should expect our government to follow the law.
If Illinois homeschoolers need help, the Illinois homeschool community can and should do something about it.
ht to Judy at Consent of the Governed for the TJ quote. Seemed very appropriate.