rant for her arrest on the grounds thatrnMrs. Williams was in violation of thernMichigan Compulsory School AttendancernAct. Burdek insisted that the actrnrequired any parent who schooled hisrnchildren at home to have a bachelor’s degree.rnAlthough she was released on $200rnbail, and the charges against her dismissed,rnBurdek continued to harassrnWilliams, who finally filed a countersuitrnagainst Burdek, a case that remains unresolved.rnShortly after Williams’ ordeal.rnDawn Wilcox of Huron, who chose tornhomeschool her children because thernpublic school system could not accommodaterntheir learning disabilities, sawrnthem seized by agents of the Departmentrnof Social Services. Anyone familiarrnwith the modus operandi of today’s childrnsavers will not be surprised to learn thatrnthey showed up late on a Friday afternoon,rnwhen securing a lawyer would bernparticulady difficult. Wilcox was ablernto recover her children the next day, butrnwere it not for two recent MichiganrnSupreme Court decisions, what wouldrncontinue to loom large in her mind andrnin the mind of Peggy Williams would bernthe threat of harassment.rnOn May 25, 1993, however, thernMichigan Supreme Court delivered twornrulings that vastly restricted the powerrnof petty school officials to harass homeschoolers.rnArgued by Michael P. Farris,rnpresident of the Home School Legal DefensernAssociation, the first case, People v.rnDejonge, reversed a decision by a lowerrncourt which found Mark and Chris Dejonge,rnparents of eight children, in violationrnof the Michigan Compulsory AttendancernAct because they were schoolingrntheir children at home without staterncertification. In the second ease, People v.rnBennett, also argued by Farris, the courtrnfound that homeschooling parents arernentitled to administrative hearings beforernthe state can file criminal chargesrnagainst them.rnIf bureaucrats in Kentucky and Michiganrnargue that homeschooling parentsrnare underqualified, or worse, neglectful,rnofficials in Virginia are suggesting thatrnhomeschoolers are actually abusive.rnHere the pattern follows that of most instancesrnof state meddling in the privaternlives of families: first, find an exceptionalrncase; second, argue that without sufficientrngovernment regulation, more ofrnthe same will happen. Enter ValeriernSmelser.rnValerie was a 12-year-old Middletownrngirl whose naked body was found onrnJanuary 23 in a ravine in Clarke County.rnThe postmortem found Valerie to bernseverely malnourished, weighing only 51rnpounds, just over half the average weightrnof a healthy 12-year-old girl. Chargedrnwith her murder are Valerie’s mother,rnWanda, and her boyfriend, NormanrnHoverter, who claimed to be homeschoolingrnValerie and her siblings. Indeed,rna truancy officer had visited thernSmelser home last October, confirmedrntheir enrollment in the Seton School (arnprivate Roman Catholic school that alsornruns a nationwide homeschooling program,rncomplete with textbooks and lessonrnplans), and concluded that WandarnSmelser had obtained a religious exemptionrnfrom the Warren County SchoolrnBoard.rnThe truth is that Wanda Smelserrnhad never obtained the exemption, norrncould her claim to be a homeschoolingrnCatholic parent be taken very seriously inrnlight of her cohabitation. Ne’ertheless,rnpublic school officials and the lawmakersrnthey control have exploited the tragedyrnto the fullest, arguing that justicerndemands a review and tightening ofrnVirginia’s homeschooling code, whichrnVirginia Education Association’s presidentrnRob Jones calls “grossly irresponsible.”rnAn editorial in the Winchester Starrnshortly after Valerie’s death begs the staternto “make sure little Valerie did not die inrnvain” by requiring homeschoolers (andrnprivate schoolers as well) to report evcr’rnsix weeks to their local public schoolrnboard.rnMore than one Virginia lawmakerrnagrees. Reported in the Potomac TSewsrnwas the reaction of Delegate James H.rnDillard II, a Republican from FairfaxrnCounty: when presented with the datarnshowing the rapid growth in the numberrnof children in Virginia with a religiousrnexemption (1,445 in 1993 and 1,870 inrn1994—a 23 percent increase) Dillardrnexclaimed, “that’s an alarming number,”rnadding that Valerie Smelser’s deathrn”shows why families with religious exemptionsrnneed monitoring.” DelegaternDavid G. Brickman, a Democrat fromrnWoodbridge and chairman of the HousernHealth, Welfare, and Institutions Committee,rnhas appointed a House of Delegatesrncommission to determine “wherernwe should go as legislators to see ifrnchanges should be made in either thernrules and regulations or in the statutes.”rnOf course, on the block in Briekman’srncommittee will be Virginia’s “religiousrnexemption” law itself (the only one of itsrnkind in the countr’): “excuse from attendancernat school an- pupil, who, togetherrnwith his parents, by reason of bona fidernreligious training or belief, is conscientiouslyrnopposed to attendance at school.”rnThe religious exemption law operatesrnindependently of the rest of Virginia’srnhomeschooling code, that is, familiesrnthat invoke it sever ties with their localrnschool districts entirely. Ordinary homeschoolersrnin Virginia must provide a letterrnof intent to the local school board asrnwell as regular evaluations each spring.rnSome school officials, however, arernnot waiting for the ax to fall. One administrator,rnMr. Joseph Jones, director ofrnpupil personnel services for the FrederickrnCounty public schools, riding the tide ofrnthe Smelser backlash, has moved aheadrnwith his own plans to crack down onrnhomeschooling. He has advised thernFrederick County School Board to ceasernaccepting evaluations from Seton, andrnhe publicl)- questioned the credentials ofrnJudy Taylor, who administers the SAT forrnhomeschoolers in his district. He alsornwants a host of new registration requirementsrnon homeschooling families in hisrndistrict: a new “Statement of Understanding”rnform not required by Virginiarnlaw and the collection of birth eertifi-rnA GREAT CHRISTMAS IDEA!rnThe Right GuidernTHE RIGHT GUIDE is the mostrncomplete source of information on thernorganizations and publications thatrnmake up the conservative, freernmarket, and traditional valuesrnmovement. THE RIGHT GUIDE listsrnover 3,400 groups. Over 830 arernprofiled in depth. Profdes includerncontact information, mission,rnaccomplishments, key personnel andrntheir salaries, revenues, expenditures,rnnet assets, publications, tax status,rnnewspaper citations and more.rn”A treasure trove of information.”rnHon. William E. SimonrnListings Include: Art, Entertainment,rnLiterature & Culture, Economics,rnEducation, Firearm Owners’ Rights,rnForeign Policy, Immigration, Populist,rnPro-Life, Traditional Values, more.rn”A great resource for networking inrnAmerica’s liberty movement.”rnDr. Walter E. Williamsrn484 pages, clothbound.rn$49.95 (includes UPS shipping)rnEconomics America, Inc.rn612 Church StreetrnAnn Arbor, MI 48104rnVisa or MC (800) 878-6141rnDECEMBER 1995/47rnrnrn