UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming opposition by hundreds of homeschooling parents and children, Senator Kahele pulled SB-2323 from consideration by the committees.  Here is an excerpt from his statement, “Due to the overwhelming testimony in opposition and the overwhelming turnout today at the Capitol, as the introducer of the bill, your voices have been heard by me and my colleagues and I would like to request that this bill be withdrawn and deferred.”  Here is his full statement.

SB-2323 Education; Home Schooling; Notification of Intent to Home School; Child Abuse or Neglect; Background Check; Child Welfare Services.  Description: Establishes procedures for a parent or legal guardian to obtain authorization to home school a child. Requires the complex area superintendent or the complex area superintendent’s authorized representative to request child welfare services to conduct a child abuse and neglect history inquiry and provide information to the department of education to conduct a background check before approving or denying a notification of intent to home school. Authorizes a parent or legal guardian to petition the family court if the notification of intent to home school is denied.

SB-2323 is a response to the tragic deaths of “Peter Boy” Kema, who died in 1997 after his parents were allowed to homeschool him despite their history of child abuse and neglect, and the 2016 starvation death of 9-year-old Shaelynn Lehano.  The tragic death of these two children has nothing to do with home schooling, is not due to any attempt to home educate and has nothing to do with home education. This was a complete failure of Child Protective Services (CPS) and their failure to carry out their responsibilities that exist under our current laws and regulations designed to protect children. CPS was involved with both cases for years before the children were pulled out of public school to homeschool and yet the agency was unable to stop it. There is nothing in SB-2323 that would have prevented these deaths.  In fact, SB-2323 would give CPS, the same agency culpable in the above deaths, the responsibility to investigate the home school families.

Current law requires that families who intend to homeschool to inform their local school via letter or 4140 form, submit yearly progress reports, and participate in yearly testing. SB-2323 would require background checks, potential home visits and approval from a superintendent to homeschool.  Requiring criminal background checks of current homeschooling families who are law abiding is both costly and unnecessary, and home visits are a clear invasion of privacy.

Testimony submitted by Honolulu County Chair Kulbis