Homeschoolers may face background checks

The state Legislature is proposing background checks for families who homeschool their keiki.

State Sen. Kaialii Kahele recently introduced Senate Bill 2323, which would create a screening process designed to ensure children with elevated risk factors are not removed from public school to be home schooled. He introduced the bill in response to the tragic 2016 starvation death of 9-year-old Shaelynn Lehano, who lived in his Hilo district.

“We are pleased with Senator Kahele’s proposal and urge the Hawaii legislature to put home-schooled children first,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for home-schooled children. “Homeschooling should be used to lovingly prepare children for an open future and not as an avenue for abusive parents to isolate children and conceal torture and abuse.”

Under SB 2323, the complex area superintendent would be required to run a background check on each individual residing in the home upon notification of intent to home school. Families with a history of child abuse or neglect would have their request denied.

In the bill’s introduction, Kahele references “Peter Boy” Kema, who died in 1997 after his parents were allowed to home school him, despite their history of child abuse and neglect. Lehano’s and Kema’s deaths prove that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of home-schooled children.

According to the State Department of Education, Hawaii has 2,774 homeschool students for the 2017-2018 school year, with 108 of them residing on Kauai.

Lora Burbage of the nonprofit educational organization, Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii, said Kahele’s proposal isolates homeschooling families by not including all parents of school-age children.

“If child abuse is really the bottom line here, then they’re going after the wrong population,” she said.

Kahele said background screenings would eventually include all homeschooling families. However if their intent to homeschool is denied, applicants could still appeal the decision.

“We’re not saying you can’t home school your child. We’re saying that what happened to Shaelynn Lehano or Peter Boy Kema or other children across America or here in Hawaii won’t happen to another child again,” Kahele said.

Two states bar homeschooling based on certain risk factors. Pennsylvania bars parents from homeschooling when an adult in the household has committed a crime that would prevent them from teaching in a public school; Arkansas prohibits homeschooling when there is a registered sex offender in the home.

“Previous child welfare services involvement is one of the top risk factors for future abuse,” said Coleman. “Children at elevated risk of child abuse should have access to mandatory reporters and a support system.”

The background check and flagging process proposed by the new bill would make Hawaii a national leader in the protection of home-schooled children, say supporters.

  1. Bobo Smithson February 15, 2018 10:36 am Reply

    Sen. Kahele idea on homeschooling is wrongheaded and it is good that it was withdrawn.

    This is a free nation. Hawaii should not be profiling, targeting, and discriminating against any group, whether Muslim parents, Catholic parents, or homeschool parents. It would be egregious and a shame to Hawaii if legislators were to pass SB 2323. Over 30 years of research in peer-reviewed journals and more show positive findings associated with homeschooling, and no general harm related to home-based education.

    No research shows that there is even a correlation between homeschooling and a higher abuse rate. Some reseach shows the general public (public school, private school) are abused and have higher fatality rates than homeschoolers. No parents should have to submit to government controls and regulations to make a choice to private school, public school, or homeschool. This 2323 sounds like Germany in the 1930s and communist China now. Okay, let’s make Muslim parents have background checks because they might teach terrorism to their children. See research on homeschooling and abuse in public schools at

    SB 2323 is wrong-headed. It assumes parents are suspect. It uses the power of government as a pre-emptive dragnet to try to catch people before they might do something wrong. Equity compared to this bill would mean doing government background checks on all parents every year because they might have another child every year and they are “alone with their children” all during pre-school and in the evenings and on weekends when their children are school-age in government schools – what a suspicious and scary thought. Come to think of it, why not start having the government – big brother and big sister – start forcing us to get licenses and Government approval to be parents at all?

    1. RG DeSoto February 15, 2018 2:54 pm Reply

      Absolutely, Bobo. And after all, just whose children are they…the parents or the state? This idiotic legislation is based on the flawed thinking of a politician who must think that it’s really the state that owns property rights in our children.
      This is the sick mentality of the fascists and communists: everybody is a creature of and owned by the state. Kahale needs to get a grip on his delusions.
      RG DeSoto

  2. rk669 February 15, 2018 5:50 pm Reply

    You can Bet the teachers union is behind this! The more students that leave public schools there is Less $$’s for them! Do they really care about your child’s education? Trump wants to give you School Vouchers,so Parents can send their children to the same schools as the Politicians Kids go to! Democrats want to keep Americans Uneducated that way they have more Control over you! Welcome to the Blue Democratic Plantation State! Someone should ask the Mayoral candidates where they stand on this issue!

  3. an February 16, 2018 12:45 pm Reply

    I’m pro homeschool and I don’t see this bill to be the uproar it is being made to be. There are valid cases throughout the US where homeschooling families should have undergone detailed background checks. This bill has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion — it is about the CHILDREN being NEGLECTED, ABUSED, MALNOURISHED, and being around a thousand other harmful scenarios. This is to PROTECT those that are not able to speak up for their own SAFETY. YES, there are PLENTY of public school children that are in unsafe home environments — the school staff should know what to look for and be an ADVOCATE to their students. We need to support one another and care for those around us. If you don’t like the bill, come up with a better solution & be open minded about this being more than just obnoxious extra steps. We all need to be better.

  4. Bobo Smithson April 13, 2018 7:57 pm Reply

    You might like the idea of homeschooling but at the core of it is the right of parents to choose whatever education they want for their children. “Schooling laws” were never meant to be and should not be pre-emptive dragnet-for-abuse laws. You want someone to come up with a “better solution,” however, you do not seem to understand that in a free nation (just like in tyrannical nations), people will do evil things no matter how many laws are passed. Furthermore, in a free nation, the State’s role is not to try to catch or stop people before they might do something bad. The State’s proper role in a free nation is to swiftly and soundly punish those who harm others (e.g., children). Myriad laws exist in state/public schools but teachers still abuse children.

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