Illinois homeschooling makes measly news

You'd think health news, the Illinois health departments and our government entity also known as the Center for Disease Control were publishing a Horrible Histories book about Measly Homeschoolers.

Illinois homeschoolers are highlighted in national news concerning a 'measles outbreak'.  Is it accurate news?  Seems to always be the question as I've learned to read 'news' with a skeptical eye. 

Measles outbreak in suburbs worries health officials:

Northwest suburban Cook County has been hit by 11 cases of measles in the last two months – 11 more than it's seen in the last 13 years combined, the Cook County Department of Public Health announced Monday.

All 11 Cook cases involved home-schooled children age 18 months to 14 years old whose parents chose not to have them vaccinated, said Sean McDermott, spokesman for the department.

This issue was brought up (again) on the IL Homeschool Freedom Watch list with homeschool news alerts from the last few days.  These stories have been brewing for a few months and I wondered what was going to come from the IL Dept of Public Health's concerns.  Not to mention the apparent infringement of privacy rights.  

The Illinois Public Health Department and the IL School Board of Education do not have the official means to gather information that toddlers up to young teens are homeschooled. The compulsory attendance age in Illinois is not yet in toddlerhood, but starts at 7 years of age.  Which would make it seem that the Cook County Dept. of Health should not make official statements as quoted above.  (I might be missing something, as Cook County (Chicago) has its own unique rules, oftentimes.)  There is a definite emphasis on homeschoolers, as if other private schooled or public schooled kids don't take exemptions to avoid vaccinations  

Despite a few governmental entities' efforts to hook homeschoolers into the IL Dept of Public Health for registration purposes, they have been unsuccessful.  Below is a decade old timeline and homeschool perspective.

Back in 1998, one legislator, Ricca Slone, proposed legislation to do the following, as described by Linda Dobson on HEM News Watch

Shot Down in Illinois…

Homeschoolers were forced to respond to HB 3344, a bold attack on homeschooling freedoms introduced by State Rep Ricca Slone. The bill, intended to rip homeschools from the private school status they currently enjoy, would have placed home educators under the thumb of local administrators. Adding insult to injury, the bill contained lots of new hoops for homeschoolers to jump through, including heretofore unnecessary submission of several health records, a rigorous test schedule coupled with portfolios, and an annual meeting between superintendent and homeschooling parents.

Homeschoolers met with Representative Slone on 2/24/98 while the bill was still in the House Rules Committee, while other homeschoolers called committee members and asked them to stop the bill in committee if it came up for vote.

The bill was successfully halted.

Here's the link to R. Slone's bill; HB 3344 (SCH CD-HOME SCHOOLING) from '98.

Can't resist throwing in this bill's proposed fiscal costs for all of this oversight and paperwork.  $25,000 plus additional costs that can't be estimated at this time.  Times 100 for bureaucratic shuffle.  Have I mentioned our fine state is broke?

State assessment program costs would increase by an estimated $25,000; additional administration and test security costs cannot be estimated at this time.

Representative Slone didn't stop with that smackdown by homeschoolers and introduced another bill the next year trying to tame those 'unwashed masses of homeschoolers'.  She enlisted a couple of other Reps, including current Senator Delgado, (also the Senate Public Health Committee Vice-Chair). This bill was about homeschool immunizations registration via the county health department:

Amends the School Code. Requires the parent or guardian of a child in a home school program to notify the county health department, not later than November 15 of  each  calendar year, of the names, addresses, and birthdates of all children who  are  then  enrolled  as students   or  receiving  instruction  in  the  home  school  program. Provides  that  each  child  enrolled  as  a  student   or   receiving instruction in the home school program shall be required by the parent or  guardian  to  receive certain immunizations and vision and hearing screenings.  Provides that the parent or guardian shall provide  proof of the immunizations and screenings to the county health department by November 15 of each year. FISCAL NOTE (State Board of Education) There would be no fiscal impact to the State or to local school districts.

In the past and currently, there have been no "names, addresses, and birthdates of all children who are then  enrolled  as students or receiving  instruction in  the home  school program" available for public school people, let alone in the public health department. This was also defeated, but I'm seeing a pattern.  I should also mention that Ricca Slone has been currently spotted in the state Capitol.  Lobbying. She was defeated by Aaron Schock in 2004.  Lesson learned, be very careful messin' with homeschoolers.

In 2002, a school code makeover was suggested and in typical fashion, they proposed requirements for homeschoolers regarding registration, along with vaccinations and lowering the compulsory attendance age to 6. There were hearings across the state.  My daughter and I went to the Decatur hearing.
People were at the microphone for 2 hours. The auditorium was almost filled.  From all that school code revising, there were only 2 other speakers lobbying about public school issues.  After the homeschooling outpour of opinion, Dr. Loucks (the head of this revision committee) said that the immunization issue was something that was a mistake…a gliche of some sort….

Continuing with the drumbeat, this year a May 31st Daily Herald article was the earliest heads up I've seen about this measles connection.  Following links, I see a CDC update does say that 83% of the affected were school aged and those 25 were not vaccinated per parental choice.  Again, the emphasis could be on using a vaccination exemption rather than on whether you homeschool or are in public schools, you'd think.

An IL Homeschool Freedom Watch member pointed out an Iowa NPR piece that said this:

Either way, Seward says, the virus is increasingly finding its way to vulnerable unvaccinated populations — "mainly children whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate."

"A high proportion of those children are home-schooled. In Illinois, pretty much all of the new cases of measles were among home-schooled children — and none of them were vaccinated," she says.

Parents cite reasons like philosophical objections — which typically boil down to fears of side effects, including the development of autism.

NPR also had this related article about Educated Parents Avoiding Vaccinations as a "troubling trend". Interesting, under the circumstances.

Any which way, here's a point I would make to any legislator or interested party.  Leave it to the parents who know, love and nurture their children best whether to vaccinate or not.  (Parents also see and live with side effects after the vaccination.) 

A January 2007 article in the Washington Post was aptly titled: Force Is Not the Only Way to Administer a Vaccine .  It was written by Courtland Milloy and I learned something I considered unimaginable in this day and age of attempting Oversight For Everything.  New Hampshire does not mandate vaccinations for children.  He starts out with the disclaimer below that is in response to the pot shots from Those Who Know Better for all families (read comments for an example).  His piece was in response to the HPV vaccine mandates run by several Merck lobbyists state legislatures; including IL.  He says:

Let’s get something straight: I am not against a vaccine that prevents strains of the human papillomavirus, as some readers have contended. Nor am I for cervical cancer, which is caused by the sexually transmitted HPV.

Mr. Milloy also says: "Here’s the deal: Running a government-funded, voluntary immunization program doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means getting serious about providing health education and access to health care."

Here’s the part I really liked!  Mr. Milloy ends with this:

So are New Hampshire residents somehow smarter and better able to develop effective public health programs? Are they more concerned about their children than the rest of us? Hardly. What they have that we do not is the right attitude. They take their state motto seriously: "Live Free or Die," while too many of us are content to live and die as slaves.

I can smell a whiff in the air here again and it's not blowing from New Hampshire.  That's unfortunate as we might use a little of their autonomous spirit right now.

Additional sources:
Home Ed News & Commentary:
Article links measles to homeschooled kids

Spunky Homeschool: Compelled to Immunize





Illinois homeschooling makes measly news — 5 Comments

  1. I could be wrong, but I think measles, polio, etc. are diseases that get you a health department official knocking at your door and asking questions, so the information publicly available isn’t as important as the interviews they conduct.

    It is the same with outbreaks of salmonella and other diseases. They’re not just going off of public records.

  2. I wondered about that. That reminded me and off this topic….sorta….I was reading old newspapers before shredding it for chicken litter and read that a nearby school district will have volunteers from social service agencies, businesses and churches will be knocking on random doors for an hour to remind parents and their children how important it is to attend school every day

    The media made the “homeschooling” issue more pertinent which poked at my antenae. 😉 I started digging around archives because IL seems to have this vacc record/exemption issue pop up over the years to oversee homeschoolers. Back doors can be just as effective as front door homeschool registration legislation.

  3. I haven’t written much about this, but around the time you posted this, the Dr. thought one of my children had the measles. He has been homeschooled his whole life, but had received his MMR shots (no regularly scheduled due to allergies, but he did complete the series) so I was still somewhat surprised. The Dr. replied that the shot is only 85% effective against the virus.

    Anyway, I was the one who insisted that they not just diagnose him, but draw some blood to determine if it was or wasn’t the measles. I was fooled by the look of the disease and so were the Dr.s. It turned not to be the measles and he did indeed have immunity. I ended up getting the same illness the next week, but milder. I definitely had the measles when I was young.

    Our experience has me wondering if they did the bloodwork to determine this really was the measles for the children they are writing about, or if it was something that just looked a great deal like it? Remember, had I not INSISTED, the Dr. was going to call my son’s rash the measles.

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