New Hampshire: Don’t Exempt Homeschooled Children from the Protection of Child Labor Laws

For Immediate Release: Exempting homeschooled children from the state’s child labor laws renders them vulnerable to exploitation

Canton, Ma., 01/25/2018—Lawmakers in New Hampshire are considering legislation—House Bill 1321—that would exempt homeschooled children from the bulk of the state’s child labor law. “Homeschooled children, like other children, need time for their studies,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “Work experience is not a substitute for K-12 education. Children’s education and opportunities should not be limited by formative years spent working instead of studying.”

HB 1321 exempts “youth receiving home education” pursuant to the state’s homeschool law from sections IV, VI, and VIII of the state’s child labor law. These sections lay out the hours children may work. Children 15 and under are barred from working before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in order to protect their sleep, and may work no more than three hours per school day, 23 hours per week during school weeks, and 48 hours per week during school vacations. Children ages 16 and 17 from may work no more than 30 hours per week during school weeks and 48 hours per week during school vacations (with no limits on when they can work). HB 1321 would exempt homeschooled children from these protections entirely.

“We understand that children who are homeschooled are often able to work different hours from other children,” said Coleman. For homeschooled children ages 16 and 17, she noted, state law already allows for this flexibility. “This bill is not about acknowledging different school hours,” Coleman added. “HB 1321 would allow a child of 14, 15, or 16 to work full time, 40 hours per week or more, for the entire year, allowing little or no time for their education.”

CRHE is aware of multiple cases of child labor violations in homeschool settings, including teens required to work full time year round in farm labor, construction, or house-cleaning businesses. In numerous cases CRHE is familiar with, these children have not had adequate time to complete their studies, resulting in educational neglect that followed them long into adulthood, limiting their career options. Under HB 1321, such situations would not be child labor violations; instead, they would be legal.

HB 1321 would turn homeschooling from a child-centered educational option into a loophole from child labor protections, to the detriment of vulnerable teens. This is especially the case in a state like New Hampshire, where parents are not required to show evidence that they are providing their children an education. “If HB 1321 becomes law, there would be nothing in in the state’s statutes to prevent a parent from homeschooling solely so that they could require a child of fourteen or fifteen to work full time,” warned Coleman.

“Children who are homeschooled may receive their education at home, but they still need time to receive an education,” said Coleman. “We urge the lawmakers of New Hampshire not to exempt homeschooled children wholesale from the state’s child labor protections.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.

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