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Mo. Home Schooling Rule Rapped

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Advocates of home education in Missouri told legislators last month that new guidelines adopted by the state's Division of Family Services discriminate against them.

The guidelines say that when complaints of "educational neglect" are brought to the attention of social-service workers, the family-services agency must relay the matter to a juvenile court "so that a determination can be made as to whether such education is substantially equivalent to that provided locally."

Parents who educate their children at home said at a hearing that the policy assumes they are "guilty before being proven innocent."

State Representative William P. McKenna has introduced a bill, which the education committee will discuss soon, that would shift responsibility for prosecuting cases of educational neglect from the juvenile courts to the civil courts.

The juvenile courts "put the child in the middle" of the debate on home schooling, Mr. McKenna said, when the intent of enforcement legislation is to make parents assure that their child attends school.

Home educators are angered by the new guidelines' provision that the state will not turn a child over to authorities if there is an established curriculum and if the home school is incorporated, said Mr. McKenna.

"But incorporation requires a boys' and a girls' bathroom a blacktop playground [in their homes]," which they cannot afford, Mr. McKenna said.--sr

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