Presently this very long page is divided into these sections. Either scroll through, or click these shortcuts to go to a section quickly. This will print to about 14 typed pages, depending on your screen magnification.
This is not intended to be legal advice and is made available for information purposes only.
I have been told that some laws have moved since I made my notes - items identified as being in section 122 are now found in 105. I will locate the correct citations. Please verify for yourself any that may affect you.
The jurisdiction of the Office of The Superintendent of Educational service Region over the Supervision of public and non-public schools is regulated by the compulsory school attendance law.
OUTLINE OF ILLINOIS SCHOOL LAWS THAT PERTAIN TO
Ages: 7 to 17, as of Jan 1, 2005. Public Act: 93-0858
(105 ILCS 5/26‑1) (from Ch. 122, par. 26‑1) Sec. 26 1. Compulsory school age Exemptions. Whoever has custody or control of any child between the ages of 7 and 17 years (unless the child has already graduated from high school) shall cause such child to attend some public school in the district wherein the child resides the entire time it is in session during the regular school term, except as provided in Section 10‑19.1, and during a required summer school program established under Section 10‑22.33B; provided, that the following children shall not be required to attend the public schools …etc..I. Any child attending a private or parochial school where children are taught the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools, and where the instruction of the child in the branches of education is in the English language." (If a child does not speak English it is proper to teach in both English and the native tongue while the child learns English.)
( The Illinois courts have held consistently that if instruction is given as the compulsory education law contemplates then the term "private school" as a lawful substitute for public schooling has been extended to home schooling. The burden is on the parent to show that an adequate course of instruction in the prescribed branches of learning is being pursued.)
School must designate a Record Keeper.
-Specific Home School Statute
-Alternative Statutes Allowing for Home Schools: NoneIf contacted by state school officials, home schoolers must respond. They could submit a "statement of assurance" form to the local school district for the purposes of verifying that their childrens' private education is providing instruction as required by Section 26-1 of the Illinois State Statutes.
The statement of assurance process, however, is voluntary and not required by law. Parents who decide to submit a statement of assurance should be aware of the fact that this form often has illegitimate points. Therefore, parents should modify this form by omitting or removing non-required sections.
A typed and signed letter stating that the children are taught the appropriate branches of education and in the English language, is probably better. Send it Certified mail, keep a copy and the receipt in your child's school file.
The statement of assurance form has often been exchanged for the non-public school registration form. On this form there is now the option to check if you are homeschooling. This is still voluntary.
-State Accreditation or State Recognition of Private Schools: Not required by statute.
-Private (Home) School Visitations: Not required by statute.
Hours: 5/day. Ill. Ann. Stat. Ch. 122, 18-8.
Subjects: Same requrements as above PLUS - Public schools are also required to teach honesty, justice, kindness and moral courage, and a few others. Ill. Ann. Stat. Ch. 122, 27-12. Flag Education in 7th and 8th grade. Constitution tests in 8th and 11th grades.
Teacher Certification: Only public school teachers must be certified (Section 21-1).
1989 Ill. Ann. Stat., chapter 23, 2053
Synopsis: Removed the authority to investigate eductional neglect from the Department of Children and Family Services. Truancy investigations will be left to the individual school districts.
If a zealous DCFS investigator does turn up for any reason, do not allow them in your home without a warrant. Not even if they have a police officer with them. Not even to make a "Visual examination", which means they can look at anything in your house that is not under lock and key including your checkbook, bills, and medicines. Do not allow them to interview your children. Insist on a warrant- and call your lawyer.
Truancy is handled under Illinois Administrative Code, Chapter 1, Section 375.75, which is cited in the sample withdrawal letter. Exact text of the law is:
"Within 14 days after enrolling a transfer student, an elementary or secondary school shall request directly from the child's previous school, a "Certified Copy of the student's records"."
If no letter requesting these records is sent, the law gives the public school official the authority to investigate the child as a possible truant. This will entail notifying the Regional Superintendent or local truancy officials and initiating normal investigative proceedures.
If your child has never been enrolled in an Illinois Public School, and a Truant Officer does turn up, politely and sweetly inform him that you are homeschooling (for his records). If you did withdraw the child, direct him to the school which failed to notify him. Do not allow him to enter your home.
The Truant Officer may investigate if a child is sent to the store or library alone. No child under 14 should be left at home alone, or they may be taken into "protective custody". While there is not a specific age where children must not be unsupervised, there are these guidelines that the police and DCFS will consider.
These are taken from the Illinois Compiled Statutes manual Chapters 705 and 725 (specific sections as listed) There may also be local ordinances regarding this situation and you should check with the local law enforcement agency in your area.
Illinois law does not set a specific age at which a child may be left alone.
The Child Abandonment section (Illinois Compiled Statutes section 720 ILCS 5/12-21.5) covers leaving a child under the age of 13 alone without supervision by a responsible person over the age of 14 for a period of 24 hours or more. There are 15 subsections under paragraph (b) that set the requirements in determining if a violation has occurred.
The Endangering the Life or Health of a Child section (720 ILCS 5/12-21.6) is very broad in that it is a violation if a child, under the age of 18, is placed in circumstances that endanger the child's life or health. What is considered dangerous circumstances is left up to the judgement of those called to investigate any complaints that may be made.
The Neglected or abused minor section ( 705 ILCS 405/2-3 par. d) covers leaving a child under the age of 14 alone and again lists (15) factors in determining if a parent is in violation.
There is a State Curfew for minors of 11PM on school nights, and 12 PM on weekends. This is tied to the Driver's License restrictions for teens 16-18 as well, which means that teens working late must have an exemption statement attached to their license. Also see the Child Labor Law restrictions for younger children, listed below.
Some towns in Illinois are passing "Daytime Curfews" tied to public school hours, where any school-age child must be in school, in the physical presence of a custodial adult, or have a written permission and school ID. This is very inconvenient if your child needs to go to the Library, or is enrolled in PS part-time, or at a community college. Get involved in local politics and get this repealed as being un-Constitutional!
Here is a link to a similar law which has been passed in Virginia, if you think "that can't happen here!"
VA Bill Tracking - 1998 session
Though it will be a surprise to many Illinois homeschoolers, we are required to keep records. No one has the right to see them, except a Judge with a court order, but there are records all schools are required to keep. Besides, if you move to a different State you may need these later. Provide a file for each child, and I suggest keeping them in a LOCKED cabinet or firebox. These records include:
Certified copies of their Birth Certificate. Get several copies made, because you will have to provide these to camps and Little League.
Their Social Security card.
Preschool, 5th grade, and 9th grade Dental, Vision, and Hearing exams.
Medical. Vaccination records- get a copy of the schedule your Doctor prefers (there are several around and they are regularly changed) and keep it with your children's file. I keep my pocket record of vaccinations in my DayRunner, because you never know when you will need this. Get a copy of their physical exams- you'll need it for camp and sports anyhow. Keep a simple list of when your child has ordinary problems-Chicken Pox, breaks an arm, hospital visits- and note if this means time off school.
Opting out of vaccinations with religious objections or medical reasons? You can, but you will have to file some paperwork! Notarized letters should be filed with your Doctor, the local hospital, and kept in your school records. You will need to keep copies with you if you travel. More information on this choice may be found linked on my Health Page.
HERE are the exemption details and more information on Record Keeping, in articles from the "CHEC Connection, "March/April 1998, vol 6 issue 2, articles by Fran Eaton.
Now, any child in IL up until his or her 19th birthday, will be able to get government-funded health care (including full contraceptive services, if not abortions), if his or her family of four makes $32,000 or less each year.
If you withdraw your child from Public School or another Private school, they will send you a stack of papers. Put these in this file. A sample transfer letter is provided below. Type it neatly and send it Certified Mail. Keep a copy and the receipt.
You may wish to go in to the school in person and ask the secretary to give you a copy of everything in your child's file. This is a good idea- when transferring the schools often only send the transcript and test scores. You are entitled to a copy of everything in any file they have. If your child has special needs, special education classes, IEPs, or is in counselling there may be separate files. The school may legally ask you to pay a small fee for the copies of up to 50 cents per page. Pay it.
If you have any correspondence at all with the Public School, keep copies here. This includes the friendly little note confirming that you are homeschooling, that the children are receiving an education equivalent to the public school, and it is in the English language, that you must send if asked. Send it Certified, and keep a copy. Don't sign any variation of "Statement of Assurance", or anything that says the local PS or Superintendent will approve your curriculum, or send a home visit. Smile sweetly and send these papers to CHEC.
Transcripts and certificates from classes your child takes outside of home, including but not limited to: YMCA, College For Kids, correspondance work, 4H or Scouts, sports camps, Junior college classes double-credited for High School, newspaper articles and letters to the Editor your child writes, and letters of Recommendation from these teachers and employers.
School transcripts and grade reports. These are less important for Elementary school, essential for High School. (see below). If you are using a correspondance or umbrella program they should provide you with these. If you are on your own you need to buy a manual. There are several available and I suggest you look them over before deciding which to buy. I really prefer:
Community Colleges - also called Junior Colleges. There is no State requirement for age, GED, or anything else. Some offer special children's classes (often in the Summer). Most will allow teens to take classes as regular students, but expect them to keep up! Public schools often offer this as an option for advanced students, to take one or two classes which are "double-credited". This very interesting concept means that the child receives high school transcript credit AND, upon HS Graduation, the earned college credits. If the child earns a "B" at the college, the high school transcript credit would usually be an "A", reflecting the level of work expected.
The child is expected to be able to keep up to the older standard in class, including taking notes, reading text assignments before class, and arranging to meet the teacher during office hours for questions over lecture or text materials. Very few college teachers allow questions during class time. Texts may not be referred to during lectures, but will be covered on the tests. The homework, including reading assignments and term papers, usually equals two hours outside of class for every hour scheduled. A college grade of "C" on any assignment means the child should arrange to see the teacher immediatly, and double any scheduled study time.
Constitution Tests and Flag Etiquette.
Public schools are required to give Constitution exams in 8th and 11th grades. Private schools are not, but most do it anyhow. If you ever enroll your child in PS you will have to certify that it was taken. You may teach it yourself, join a homeschool group, take it through a private school, or sign up for an individual class at the public school. This is apparently the sole graduation requirement for 8th grade or high school.
Flag Ettiquette is required to be taught (only in the public schools) for one hour per week for 7th and 8th grades.
Q - What if you want to have your child take some classes at the local PS? Perhaps there is a gifted French teacher there, or you don't feel capable of teaching Chemistry? A - Easy- I found this through my Public Library:
Illinois School Code 10.20-24 Part Time Attendance
"Part-time attendance. To accept in part time attendance in the regular education program of the district pupils enrolled in nonpublic schools if there is sufficient space in the public school desired to be attended. Request for attendance in the following school year must be submitted by the nonpublic school principal to the public school before May 1. Request may only be made to those public schools located in the district where the child attending nonpublic school resides.
To accept, pursuant to the provisions of Section 14-6.01, in part-time attendance resident pupils of the types described in Sections 14-1.02 through 14-1.07 who are enrolled in nonpublic schools.
Ammended by P.A. 80-1509, & 1, eff. Jan 9, 1979.
I looked up Section 14 as well- those include the public access regulations for the handicapped as well as other private school students. If your child requires a wheelchair ramp or other accomodation to take a class, look these up.
Do not expect the school to provide transportation to and from unless you are able to meet the big yellow bus on its regular route. Note that if the class is full they do not have to open another section, and your child will be always be the last one on the list as the class fills.
An IEP is a Federal Program. It is an annual contract between you as the parent, and the provider. If you have signed one, you must complete the year even if you withdraw the child from Public School.
If you need special services the school must provide them if you ask. However, you as the parent decide exactly which services you will accept. Interviews on IEPs often include school personel, counsellors, psychologists, and I-don't-know-who-else. This can be overwhelming! There is no obligation to acept any public services- you may choose to use private sources. If a special service you need is not available in your PS, but is available privately, the school district may be obliged to provide the funding (which they will be reimbursed for) and transportation.
If your child has documented special needs, it may be a good idea to write your own IEP, with goals for each year and the resources you intend to utilize listed. Then file this in your child's records. At the end of the year, write an evaluation and a revised IEP for the following year.
Tips on writing IEP and 504 plans may be found at the Aut-2B-Home site, or at CM Special Needs.
Worth remembering - According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, health care providers are required by law to report all children 0-3 with a disability or POSSIBLE developmental delay (cognitive development, physical development, including vision and hearing; language and speech development; psychosocial development or self-help skills.) A 800 number is provided to all health care providers. The assessment they offer after reporting the child and family to a central agency is, of course, "free" and optional. Beware- if you gladly take advantage of the program and later decide to get out, you may find that you cannot. This is part of the Individuals With Disabilities Act (Part C as of July, 1998).
A - This is where Idaho and Oklahoma are ahead of us. In Illinois you can expect to use public school resources for Band and art if they meet during the day as regular classes. Interscholastic activities and competition high school sports are only available under special conditions as part-time students. Here is the latest from Eagle Watch:
"The IHSA bylaw change, which was overwhelmingly supported by its members Dec. 16 and will become effective July 1, (2000,) allows only "bona fide students" attending IHSA member schools to participate in sports and organizations ranging from marching band to debate teams. Bona fide is defined as those students who attend at least four classes a day at the high school or an affiliated alternative school."
This now includes homeschool students. The exact IHSA By-Law is number 3.011. It does not remove the requirement for 4 hours per day as a part-time student, but instead allows the parents and the local school to negotiate an enrollment where the child is given public school credits for classes actually taken at home. Details of curriculum and course requirements are left to the local school. Please check this out carefully before talking to your local school.
A - Certainly! It is easiest to have the child officially being homeschooled by their parent, with your assistance as a tutor. You may also choose to arrange a joint Guardianship (see a lawyer) with the education being on your side. You may choose to set yourself up as a private school, with fees and careful records. You may choose to register with the State on the Non-Public Schools form, but it is not required.
As long as you are having school in your home, you are exempt from Public Health and Fire codes, including asbestos testing, and from the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you choose to set up as a private school in another building you will be subject to these (it can be complicated and expensive to comply.) This is beyond the scope of this page.
Q - Or Foster child?
A - This is different- because you are not the Guardian of the child, but only the caregiver. You need to obtain the legal Guardian's written permission. This may be a Judge, this may be your friendly DCFS caseworker. You will probably have to provide thorough documentation, record-keeping, regular testing, home visits and interviews. If you are involved in the Foster Care system you are already familiar with most of this and can discuss it with your contacts. I have seen cases where it was allowed, forbidden, or even ordered by a Judge!
Q - Using public school texts.
A - Guess what- you can. Go to the school, pay the regular yearly book rental fees and any fees for consumables (workbooks), and walk out with the books. This is Policy, straight from the State School Superintendent's office. Why you'd want to, I don't know! If you withdraw your child mid-year, you have the right to continue to use the books you have already paid the rental on until June. If you wish next year's, you had better ask by that May 1 date so the school will be sure to order enough of the consumables. Some public schools have been known to refuse, so ask.
Q - Standardized Testing?
A - Is not required for any private school student. You may arrange for private testing, or for your child to take the standardized tests at the local school. Keep the results in your school records but remember they are highly confidential! They can be useful for spotting weaknesses, or strengths, as well as documenting progress.
If you register as a homeschool student, you as a parent must provide the notarized letter which states that your child has passed 4 credit classes for each of the two previous semesters before the class registration (which is subsection (a)). No transcript, and don't specify the classes or materials used.
If you register your child as a private school student, you as the Principal will have to provide a notarized letter (same requirements as homeschool) AND a transcript of grades, which will be submitted to the Secretary of State with the driver education class records. I suggest contacting CHEC before trying this.
Here are the requirements for the parent's letter:
Illinois Administrative Code CH 1, S. 252.25 subsection (g)
"D.) A student enrolled in a home school who wishes to enroll in driver education offered by a public school district or nonpublic school shall present, and each such entity shall accept as verification of the student's eligibility, a signed, notarized statement stipulating:
i) that the student is enrolled in a home school;
ii) that he or she is eligible pursuant to subsection (a) of this section; and
iii) that the signature presented is that of the individual who administers the school attended by the student."
Added at 18 Ill. Reg. 16307, effective October 25, 1994.
This is the same if you use a private Driver Ed school. The DE law is changing- they have increased the hours of practice driving required and there are other changes scheduled for the next two years. Students must remain in school and continue to pass 4 classes per semester until graduation, their license is not valid after curfew unless they have a work exemption attached, and you as a parent can have the license cancelled at any time between ages 16-18 by writing the Secretary of State. Check out the exact provisions of the new "Graduate to Safety" laws at Graduated Licensing System.
What are the Illinois graduation requirements? I cannot find any at all for private schools, except that the children must be instructed in the branches listed above. A GED may not be taken until after the child's public school class would graduate. Public school students must pass the 8th and 11th grade Constitution tests, and 2 years of PE.
What is important for colleges and many jobs, is your transcript. You will need a manual. In Illinois we may issue a valid diploma.
On the transcript be sure to include any credits from other sources, such as community colleges, correspondance classes, or Internet classes. If you use a literature-based program, such as Charlotte Mason, or an Unschooling approach, be sure to include a detailed booklist and document all credits carefully. Colleges also appreciate formal letters of recommendation from adults outside your family who know your child well. Pastors, employers, politicians your child did volunteer work for are all excellent. If your child worked as a legislative Page, or was in a theatrical production, or did other volunteer work, you will have other sources of those recommendations. I suggest collecting them regularly instead of waiting until the Senior year. A fat transcript is a good transcript!
ACT and SAT testing is essential for the college-bound. Get the applications from your public school counselor in your child's Junior year. The ACT form says that homeschoolers do not need to register with the local PS, and lists a special "school" number. Check this carefully- when I tried it, due to some glitch in the computers, our form came back with my child registered to a school in Iowa.
Another good idea is to have your child take CLEP examinations through your local library. Many colleges accept these credits. Take as many of the exams as you can- failing the exam does not hurt you. Only passing grades are counted.
When you apply for colleges, do not fail to apply for financial aid. If your child has an unusual transcript it can be a good idea to apply to the larger colleges and Universities, who are usually more interested in diversity and accomplishments outside the "normal" educational channels. A fat transcript is a good transcript!
From the Ill Dept of Labor site:
Child Labor Law (312-793-2804) (CHILD LABOR HOTLINE: 1-800-645-5784)
Regulates the employment of workers under 16 years of age. The law protects children by (1) requiring employment certificates. The certificate confirms that a minor is old enough to work, physically capable to perform the job, and that the job will not interfere with the minor's education; (2) prohibiting work in hazardous occupations; and (3) limiting working hours. All work before 7 a.m. and during the school year after 7 p.m. is prohibited. Work until 9 p.m. is allowed from June 1 through Labor Day.
The Exact Law says, among the many detailed provisions:
(820 ILCS 205/11) Sec. 11. The employment certificate shall be issued by the City or County Superintendent of Schools or by their duly authorized agents and shall be valid for a period of one year. The person issuing these certificates shall have authority to administer the oaths provided for herein, but no fee shall be charged. It shall be the duty of the school board or local school authority, to designate a place or places where certificates shall be issued and recorded, and physical examinations made without fee, as hereinafter provided, and to establish and maintain the necessary records and clerical services for carrying out the provisions of this Act.
Federal Regulations, applying to children between 16-18, are linked from that page.
This is frustrating for children who wish to work at the video store at lunch, or to have a Summer job before age 14! There are work-arounds:
1) Apprenticeships. For this you and the designated mentor and the child sign a contract covering what will be accomplished during a given time frame, usually a semester. The child receives school credit on their transcript, as well as getting on-the-job training similar to the Goals 2000 Work-Study programs. NHEN and Home Education Magazine have a lot of information on apprenticeships.
2) Family business. No problem at all, except for the 7 PM cut-off. A nice benefit to this is that you can play with their paycheck. You may pay other employees minimum wages, but you may pay family members anything over the minimum you want. Why not pay your child $50/hour? Give them $5/hour cash, and place the rest in their bank account for college? You can, quite legally, fiddle with the numbers here until your business has almost NO taxable profit, yet your children's bank accounts grow rapidly. Remember- they must pay income taxes and Social Security on it ALL, but that will almost certainly be at a lower rate than your business tax. I knew someone who did this with an ice-cream store. They said the only problem was that it affected the sale price of the business later.
3) Their own business. Raise and sell goats, have an orchard, sell ice cream from a truck (check county health codes), invent and patent and sell widgets to Sears for a million dollars. Keeping records, paying taxes, and filling out all those business forms is very eductional!
Local Public School name
City, State, Zip
Dear (Principal's name),
This is to inform you that as of (date) our child, (full name), will be withdrawing from attendance at (public school name). (Child's name) will be enrolled at (your home school name-have fun making one up).
You will be receiving a letter from (your school name) formally requesting a Certified Copy of (child's name)'s school records.
(You may wish to include a brief paragraph here expressing thanks or appreciation for any program, staff, or teachers of particular excellence; or expressing a general affirmation of an excellent school. Remember- "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things. Phillipians 4:8 Be sure to give any honest praise you can.)
Please contact us if you have any questions.
Your Typed names
School letterhead paper would include the name of the school, address, and phone number, so you would place only the date at the top.
Name of Public School
City, State, zip
Dear (Principal's name),
This is to notify you or the enrollment of (child's full name) in (your school name) as of (date within two weeks of the child's last appearance in the public school).
In compliance with Chapter 1, Section 375.75 of the Illinois Administrative code, we are writing to request that a Certified Copy of (child's name)'s records be forwarded to us. Your prompt assistance in this matter will be appreciated, as it will enable us to complete our files.
[At this point you may wish to either end the letter, or, if you want to leave no doubt, include the following: (your school name) is a Private home school. (child's name) receives instruction in all branches of education in the English language as required by law, in compliance with the requirements of the Compulsory Attendance Law, Chapter 122, Section 26-1 of the Illinois School code.]
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Title (Principal, Administrator, whatever sounds good)
Letter #3) Driver's Education Letter: As the Parents
City, State, Zip
Local Public School name
City, State, Zip
Dear (Principal's name),
As the parents of (child's full name), who is enrolling in Driver's Education Class in your school, we wish to certify in compliance with the Illinois Administrative School Code Ch.I,S. 252.25 that:
i) (child's name) is enrolled in a (Private) home school
ii) that he/she is eligible pursuant to subsection (a), and;
iii) that the signature presented is that of the individual who administers the home school attended by this student.
Please contact us if you have any questions.
Your Typed names
This letter MUST be signed in the presence of, and sealed by, a Notary Public. You take it to the school (either the Public School or a private Driving School) when you register the child for Driver's Education class. This letter will be sent to the Secretary of State with the child's class scores. Do not include a transcript, grades, or which credits being counted for part (ii). If you are intending to use the public school class, it is a good idea to register by May 1 of the school year your child turns 15, in order to arrange the most convenient class from the next sessions.
If you choose to register your child as a Private School Student, with you as the Principal (instead of as a homeschooler), you as the school will have to:
Change "parent" to "Principal of Your School Name"
In Part (i) above, substitute the word "Private" for "home".
provide a transcript of the child's High School credits showing that the child has passed (4) credit classes each of the two semesters previous to enrollment in the Driver's Education class. This is part (ii) above. If time passes before the class begins, you may be asked for an updated transcript before the scores are sent to the Secretary of State.
Part (iii) change "home" to "Private".
This letter will need to be on School letterhead, be signed as the Principal, and notarized.
The Illinois CHEC Connection, March/April 1998, vol 6 issue 2 (email version, hard copy also available)
articles by Fran Eaton, Director
This copyrighted article, which is also available on the CHEC website linked above, is reproduced here by permission from Fran Eaton.
VACCINES -- Really a Parents' Choice?
The last CHEC Connection included a controversial article addressing the
emotional issue of vaccinations. We have heard from several persons who are
very concerned about the actual content of Illinois law on immunizations, how
it is enforced and the alternatives parents have.
Since that time, much has come to light which is very important to all homeschoolers of Illinois, whether they choose to immunize their children or not. CHEC will not take an official position on the individual immunizations -- we want to serve all homeschoolers, regardless of their views on health care. But it is our purpose here to fully inform Illinois homeschooling families on this issue in light of recent developments which brought the matter before the IDPH (Ill Department of Public Health).
The Illinois School Code, Chapter 122, Sec.27-8.1 lists the children's vaccination requirements. The law gives the IDPH ( soon to be called Department of Human Services) the authority to make rules and regulations as to how the law will be enacted. But the Illinois School Code clearly states when health exams are to be given, and that these requirements apply to "any public, private, or parochial school." Illinois home schools are private schools, as determined by the Illinois Supreme Court's Levisen case in 1950. The combination of School Code and current IDPH requirements are in an accompanying chart. (See chart on page .)
According to the Illinois School Code, "every school" is to report their vaccination records to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the ISBE is to report its findings to the IDPH. These numbers are especially important to the local school districts because as the law states, unless 90% of the children in a district are appropriately vaccinated, 10% of that district's state funds will be withheld.
CHEC is currently investigating with attorneys as to the current application of this, being that in 1996, private schools were removed from the authority of the ISBE. The question is, what should homeschoolers do about this legal requirement of "all schools" to report to the State Board? CHEC strongly opposes any laws or rules which would require private/home schools to reveal their existence, the number or ages of students enrolled, or any additional private information to government authorities.
What exceptions are allowed to vaccination requirements?
There are two types of exceptions allowed under the current rules and regulations passed by the IDPH for children's examinations and vaccinations. These exceptions are listed in Title 77: Public Health, Chapter I: Department of Public Health, Subchapter 1: Maternal and Child Health, Part 665 under the subtitle: Subpart E, Section 665.510: "Objection of Parent or Legal Guardian".
The first of these exemptions addresses the religious exemption and states: Parent or legal guardian of a student may object to health examinations, immunizations, vision and hearing screening tests, and dental health examinations for their children on religious grounds. If a religious objection is made, a written and signed statement from the parent or legal guardian detailing such objections must be presented to the local school authority. The objection must set forth the specific religious belief which conflicts with the examination, immunization or other medical intervention. The religious objection may be personal and need not be directed by the tenets of an established religious organization. General philosophical or moral reluctance to allow physical examinations, immunizations, vision and hearing screening, and dental examinations will not provide a sufficient basis for an exception to statutory requirements. The local school authority is responsible for determining whether the written statement constitutes a valid religious objection.
Section 665.520 lists the criteria for a medical exemption:
a) Any medical objection to an immunization must be:
1) Made by a physician licensed to practice medicine in all its branches indicating what the medical condition is,
2) Endorsed and signed by the physician on the certificate of child health examination and placed on file in the child's permanent record.
b) Should the condition of the child later permit immunization, this requirement will then have to be met. Parents or legal guardians must be informed of measles outbreak control exclusion procedures when such objection is presented per Section 665.510.
In other words, all schools (including private/home schools) should have on
file a copy of the last medical examination record which should include an up-
to-date list of all vaccinations which each child has received, or a medical
or religious exemption attached to the file. A medical exemption should be a
letter pertaining to each vaccination not accounted for in the examination
record, and each medical exemption must be signed by the child's physician.
A religious exemption should be listed for each child, for each vaccination
which is not listed on the medical examination record as being administered.
The religious belief may be personal, but the religious basis for the relief
needs to be stated in the letter.
Please take special notice that according to the IDPH rules, the local school district has the authority to determine if the parents' religious objections are valid. (This concept is questionable as to its constitutionality, but as to CHEC's research, has not been legally challenged to date.)
CHEC encourages all these exemption letters to be kept on file in the home-
taught child's school records retained in their home school. Each family
should determine their own religious reasons for choosing exemption. No
general religious forms are available, each family needs to obtain their own
religious reasons, and write their own letters to have on file. CHEC cautions
homeschooling families about volunteering these records to anyone outside of
your home school.
Also, note that only two exemptions are acceptable to the ISBE and IDPH at this time: medical and religious.
Ramifications of Ignoring These Mandates
According to School Code, any child in a public or private school which does not file these forms with their local school by Oct 15 of the current school year, will be excluded from attending the local school. During a child's exclusion from school, the parents or legal guardians "shall be considered in violation of Section 26-1 and subject to any penalty imposed by Section 26-10." Section 26-1 is the compulsory school attendance or truancy law, and the penalty if found guilty is a $500 fine for the parents. This would most likely apply to parents of children in traditional public or private schools. We are not sure yet what would happen to parents who teach their children in their homes.
According to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), a child without sufficient medical records can be considered and investigated for "medical neglect or abuse."
CHEC has been notified of several homeschooling families who were turned in to the DCFS when an emergency room doctor determined that their vaccination records were not up-to-date. As a mandated reporter, if an emergency room doctor or medical personnel consider "failure or refusal to immunize" as "medical neglect," they are required by law to report the situation to the DCFS. If a parent is found "indicated" in a medical neglect case, the children can be removed if the social worker judges that it would be best for the child. Although we have not been notified of any child being taken away for failure or refusal to vaccinate, we do know that at least one of the families who contacted us after their DCFS report were forced to hire an attorney to write a letter of defense and explanation, after the parents obtained a medical exemption from their family doctor. According to Home School Legal Defense Association, they will intercede on such situations with families who are HSLDA members.
Public Health Tries to Tie Homeschooling to "Medical Neglect"
In addition, the McHenry County Health Department attempted to influence public opinion through the Northwest Daily Herald by reporting a breakout of whooping cough in three McHenry County home schooling families. This came to our attention, thanks to alert families in McHenry. After CHEC spoke with two of the three families who had dealt with the trauma of pertussis, we found that nine of the eleven children who had acquired the dreaded disease had been vaccinated according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The McHenry County Health Department not only made this situation known through the local newspapers, a representative of the board appeared before the IDPH Board on March 26, 1998, to accelerate its alarm over homeschoolers who they believe may not be caring for their children's health in accordance to Illinois law.
CHEC learned of the potential explosive nature of this situation, and sent a representative to the March 26th meeting. When the McHenry Co official publicly testified, a representative of CHEC also presented oral testimony to refute the slanderous comments made before the IDPH Board, the public and the press in attendance at that meeting. (See CHEC's testimony at the hearing on page 6 & 7.)(below)
CHEC's Warning In light of the provisions for vaccination accountability as listed in HB 3344, CHEC is warning the homeschooling parents of Illinois to get their children's health records updated as the law requires, and if you as a family are concerned about vaccinating your children, find a doctor to write a medical objection, or state in a written letter your family's religious reasons for abstaining from vaccinations. CHEC representatives are willing to come to your area to explain this situation as our family schedules allow. It is our desire to protect homeschooling liberties in Illinois and to keep homeschooling families fully informed.
Testimony for Illinois Department of Public Health Board Hearing
March 26, 1998
Offered by Mrs. Fran Eaton,
Director of Communications
Christian Home Educators Coalition
I serve on the Board of Directors of the Christian Home Educators Coalition. Some 15,000 families are teaching their children here in Illinois in private schools commonly called "home schools." I am here to assure you that the parents who are teaching their own children not only are deeply concerned about their children's education, they are deeply concerned about their children's health. We want our children to be healthy, contributing citizens to this state -- both now and in the future.
The parents of this state who are choosing home education are aware of the
laws which require certain vaccinations in order to "attend school." We
either have our children vaccinated as the Illinois Department of Health
requires, or we have in our files medical or religious exemptions, as the
Illinois Administrative Code allows. We are careful to keep all of our
children's records up-to-date and accurate. We understand the heavy
responsibility of being the health, education and welfare providers for our
Home-educating families are as diverse as those in the public school system. Doctors, lawyers, judges, attorneys and child psychologists as well as truck drivers, computer programmers and salesmen are teaching their children in their homes. Many home teach because of religious reasons, while others want to offer their children individualized and accelerated academic programs.
It has been quite disconcerting that in recent days, our organization has learned of public health authorities using local newspapers to advance a stereo-type of homeschooling families as being negligent and irresponsible parents. It is inappropriate for anyone to attempt to stereo-type such a diverse group of people. These families take great offense at this current trend from our local public health authorities.
I hold in my hand an article that was written in the McHenry County's Northwest Daily Herald on March 20, 1998, entitled "Whooping Cough Alert Hits County." I also hold in my hand a letter which I received late last night, from one of the families involved in the pertussis outbreak. While the McHenry Health Department told the reporter that 11 of the children infected with pertussis were homeschooled, they failed to tell the reporter that 9 of the 11 children who were believed to have had pertussis had been vaccinated according to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. This article appears to have been written to undermine the parenting decisions of home schoolers in the McHenry County area. Most alarming is the fact that this situation was brought to the attention of the public more than three months after the pertussis was confirmed in one -- and only one -- of the mentioned children. Are these families being victimized by the very agencies whose purpose is to protect our citizens?
CHEC has several concerns relating to the current provisions of health
examinations and vaccination records:
1. Nothing is more threatening to a home-educating family than fearing that their children could be taken away by the Department of Children and Family Services, simply because they have exempted their children from vaccinations for religious or medical reasons. Several families have reported to us direct confrontations with the DCFS over the allegation of "medical neglect" based on a child's vaccination records. These situations arose when an emergency room doctor -- as a mandated reporter and usually unfamiliar with the family -- reports a discrepency in the vaccination records, especially if the parents have a medical or religious exemption. The sheer terror these caring families experienced, while being considered guilty until proven innocent by the social workers at the Department of Children and Family Services, was devastating to both the parents and the children. We would like the possibility of such scenerios to end.
2. Philosophical reasons should be added to the list of acceptable exemptions. Some families' concerns about vaccinations fall in between religious and medical reasons. The philosophical exemption would fit their situations more appropriately. We ask that this addition be seriously considered.
3. Home schools are private schools in the state of Illinois. Reporting to the local public school with information which would open our schools to examination by local authorities is unacceptable to us. While we pay property taxes to the local community schools, we ask nothing in return, except to be left alone. It is our position that the local regional superintendents should not have the authority to accept or reject religious or medical objections of students in the private school system. This would place them in a position of deciding the outcome of a competing or comparable system which provides the same service as they do. Such a system should not be allowed to function.
In conclusion, the home schoolers of this state are working very hard to produce healthy, contributing citizens for the future. We are deeply committed to giving our children our very best. Many of these home schooling families are sacrificing much-needed second incomes in order to provide a full-time teacher in the home. While they are buying their own children's textbooks, providing caring, compassionate instructors and care-givers for their children's intellectual development, they are watching carefully over their children's physical and emotional development as well. We have found a way to return to self- or God-reliance for our children's needs -- the way our nation was historically founded and built to its pinnacle today.
Our children stand alongside the heroes of the past -- George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and yes, scientists Booker T. Washington and Blaine Pascal, along with Florence Nightingale -- all of whom were home- taught. We ask that the public health authorities view our contribution to Illinois history and culture for what it is -- a true, selfless effort for all of our futures. Thank you.
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