NHELD response concerning the proposed NC homeschool statute changes sought by NCHE

This is Deborah Stevenson’s response, she is a lawyer with NHELD:

“Haven’t looked at your laws in a while, but off the top of my head – check to see the exact language. Our statute says parents “shall instruct or cause the child to be instructed”. That allows the parent to direct the instruction in any manner, including hiring tutors, enrolling in coop classes, etc. If there is any leeway in the existing statute where it could be interpreted that way, that would be the first choice. Next, one can always make an argument that just because it’s not included in the statute, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. In other words, the legislature knows how to exclude things, and they didn’t, so they must have realized it could be included. Those kind of arguments allow you to use existing law
rather than changing it. To fortify your argument, conduct research into the legislative history, if you haven’t already. Legislative history is simply the recorded comments of legislators at public hearings on the bill before it became a law, and comments during debate in committees and on the floor of the house and senate. Perhaps this point was argued before the law took effect and the rationale for leaving text as it is may have been articulated clearly. It could work in your favor, or not. If it does, that’s a strong argument because when judges have to interpret what the law means, that’s a primary way that they do it, or at least should do it.

They determine legislative intent in that manner by quoting legislators comments before it became law. If you don’t know how to do the research, the state library, or the local law library, has reference librarians who are used to doing this sort of thing. Sometimes they will do it by phone as well and send you the information. It’s worth doing anyway, if you
haven’t. You may be surprised what you can learn that may be helpful in the future. Don’t just look at current information – trace the debate back to the very beginning. Over time, the legislators’ thoughts on the subject may have changed substantially. Usually, most laws have been amended through time and at each occurrence you may find more comment and debate.

I would ask the other homeschoolers to hold off on proposing any changes in the law until you have all the research completed. They might not need to actually ask for a change in the law if you bring to the attention of the appropriate people the legislative history.

If you need to change the law, I would suggest some language as in the CT statute – parents still instruct, or cause the child to be instructed. That covers most everything.

Let me know if you have any further questions as you progress.
Deb.