State Representative Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids) announced on Facebook on Tuesday that he has drafted a bill requiring Iowa’s public schools to conduct “health and wellness” checks on homeschooling students within their district.

He wrote:

In light of the recent deaths of children in Iowa, whose bodies were discovered abused and malnourished, I’ve drafted a bill providing oversight of children who are not registered and attending a public or certified private school. I support homeschooling as an option parents may choose for their children; every single homeschooling parent I’ve met has their kids’ best interests at heart. But all of Iowa’s children absolutely deserve an opportunity for a “health and wellness” check to help prevent abuse or neglect. My bill requires the parent or guardian to submit a report annually to the school district of residence. Children will also receive visits by the school district. Yes, there will be a cost associated with designating a staff member for these visits, and to ensure that Iowa’s children are safe and receiving an education. But don’t you agree that Iowa’s children deserve no less?

I hope you will support my “Student Safety” bill, and ask your legislators to support it.

Staed’s bill is a reaction to two girls who died as a result of neglect by their adoptive families who later removed them from public school. Due to Iowa’s Independent Private Instruction law, they were not required to notify the school district.

Independent Private Instruction (IPI) enacted in 2013 as part of a deal with Iowa Senate Democrats in exchange for passing 4% allowable growth for public school aid.

IPI does not require parents of students who are of compulsory school age to report their intent to homeschool to their local school district or provide an assessment, portfolio or have a supervisory teacher all of which are requirements under Competent Private Instruction (CPI) which was, prior to the 2013, the only way a family could legally homeschool in Iowa.

Parents who homeschool can still do so through Competent Private Instruction, and by doing so they are able to utilize the parent-taught drivers’ education law that was also passed in 2013.  Some homeschool parents also dual-enroll their children in their local school district or in some cases participate in a Homeschool Assistance Program that a few school districts in Iowa offer.

Staed’s bill would make Iowa’s homeschooling requirements more restrictive than before IPI was passed.

The bill has not yet been made public. Staed is not the first to draft such a bill. Former State Senator Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines) wanted homeschoolers to undergo “health and wellness” checks by public schools as well.

Staed’s post overlooked some pertinent facts which Bill Gustoff, an attorney and homeschooling father, pointed out in a comment:

So, the fact that Natalie Finn was actually a PUBLIC SCHOOL student who was already on the DHS radar because her PUBLIC SCHOOL nurse was astute and properly reported her is a fact you choose to ignore while you malign home schooling? Make no mistake, that is what you are doing here. Being a PUBLIC SCHOOL student and under their supervision did not save Natalie Finn, and it does not help the hundreds of children who come to light for abuse every year who are in public schools (and some of them abused at those schools or by school employees). Does the fact that many students each and every year are abused at the hands of public school employees mean that public school employees are all suspect and need deeper background checks and more government oversight? Of course not! Nor are home school parents, though. This is not a home school issue, just as it is not a public or private school issue. It is an issue with DHS oversight and how police investigate reports of abuse, which the “recent deaths” you refer to were.

  1. Mr. Staed, is drawing a false correlation between an isolated, horrific tragedy and homeshooling families en masse. You want to go after someone? How about DHS, who already knew about the situation prior to the deaths? Furthermore, he seems to be projecting a stereotype that families who homeschool are hermits who isolate their children from society. This simply isn’t the case. Many homeschooled kids participate in sports, Scouts, 4H, church youth groups, performing arts, and other things. We take our kids to the doctor, the optometrist, chiropractor, and dentist. We participate in homeschool co-ops where groups of homeschooling families combine to do classes together. Wellness and accountability is ensured by the community. It’s not the state’s job to raise our children. Kindly stay out of the way.

    1. Thank you for your insights. My son alerted me to this potential bill. As a homeschool parent of 14 years, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. Does Staed’s proposal include checking public school children over the summer months as they are out of the government’s (school’s) supervisory eye? This “low cost” safety check will cost at least $75 an hour (a cost I have been repeatedly told that Linn County pays for home health care, which would be comparable). “Professionals” are being put above parents – what is the point if “every single homeschool parent” is doing a “stellar” job?

  2. Wait. “But all of Iowa’s children absolutely deserve an opportunity for a “health and wellness” check to help prevent abuse or neglect. My bill requires the parent or guardian to submit a report annually to the school district of residence. ” Mr. Staed just said he hopes to do home checks on ALL families. How else does he expect to “prevent abuse and neglect” if the State isn’t checking ALL families? I’d love to see a) an analysis of the potential rewards or “preventions” and b) a cost breakdown. I think Mr. Staed would agree Iowa’s children deserve no less.

  3. Absolutely not impressed by this proposal! School faculty needs to be addressed and bullying under control! Put taxpayers money where it belongs and leave homeschoolers alone! We don’t need more people to try and “control” what citizens of this star do. One event, that is horrible, does not define EVERY homeschool family. This is an excuse for him to cover up the nasty things that happen in the public school system!

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