Statement Supporting Texas House Bill 2794

For Immediate Release: New Regulations Could Help Prevent Identification Abuse of Homeschooled Students

Canton, Mass., 3/19/15—Texas House Bill 2794 could benefit homeschooled children and alumni, according to Rachel Coleman, Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Marsha Farney (R) in response to a social media push by Alecia Pennington, will make it easier for individuals to apply for delayed birth certificates and will provide criminal penalties for parents who refuse to sign an affidavit attesting to their child’s birth. “The filing of this bill is an important step for victims of identification abuse, particularly those in the homeschool community who may lack corroborating records,” Coleman said.

“Identification abuse” refers to a parent or guardian’s deliberate refusal to supply their child with vital identification documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses, etc., generally as a way of limiting the child’s ability to live as an independent adult. In a 2014 survey of 3,700 homeschool alumni, approximately one in ten of those who reported experiencing abuse as children also reported that their caregiver had committed identification abuse, defined as “not providing you with, withholding, or destroying any of your identification documents.”  “Though identification abuse can happen to anyone, homeschooled children are disproportionately affected as a result of inadequate legal oversight of homeschooling,” Coleman said.

Texas law requires parents to file birth certificates for their children; this paperwork is typically handled by hospitals or, in the case of homebirth, midwives. However, when Alecia Pennington was born in 1996, her parents allegedly sought out a midwife who agreed not to file the required paperwork. Because Texas does not require homeschooling parents to submit a copy of their child’s birth certificate to the local school district, Alecia’s lack of identifying documents was not addressed until she left home as an adult. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education believes the homeschooling requirements in Texas should change. “Homeschooling should not serve as a loophole to allow children’s lack of identifying documentation to go unnoticed,” said Coleman.

Applying for a delayed birth certificate conventionally involves producing medical or school documents, but some homeschool graduates may not have either of these—homeschooling parents in Texas are not required to turn in documentation of their children’s academic progress, and state-mandated medical exams do not apply to homeschooled students. “If we want to protect homeschool graduates from identification abuse, we need to change our documentation and medical requirements for homeschoolers,” Coleman noted. “While this bill does not secure homeschoolers against the possibility of identification abuse, it is a step in the right direction and has the potential to benefit homeschool graduates like Alecia Pennington.”

“We appreciate Rep. Farney’s attention to the rights of those filing for delayed birth certificates,” Coleman concluded. “Parents who have a moral objection to government-issued identification should not be able to deprive their children of the ability to work, attend higher education, obtain housing, and live independently.”

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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