Senator yanks bill requiring background checks for parents who home-school their children

(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After receiving nearly 1,000 pieces of testimony, state Sen. Kai Kahele requested that his bill requiring background checks for parents who home-school their children be withdrawn.

Senate Bill 2323 was deferred by the Education Committee late Wednesday afternoon.

The bill would require Child Welfare Services to conduct a child abuse and neglect inquiry into a child whose parents or legal guardian want to home-school. That information would then go to the Department of Education so the state could do a background check before approving or denying the applicant.

Parents who home-school their children believe the bill discriminates against them.

"Innocent families were sort of being punished simply because they home schooled and there was a presumption of guilt simply because we wanted to home school," said Anna Black.

Black, her three home-schooled children, along with hundreds of other home-school parents and their children gathered at the Capitol rotunda just before testifying.

Senator Kahele, who represents Hilo and whose wife was home-schooled, said the bill was never intended to be discriminatory or disrespectful.

"The democratic process works. And it's evident today. When hundreds and hundreds of parents and children came to the legislature to make their voices heard and their voices were heard," said Kai Kahele.

Kahele said his bill stemmed from two high-profile child abuse deaths in Hilo.

"Peter Boy" Kema died when he was 6 years old in 1997. Last year, Kema's parents admitted to manslaughter. They had always claimed Kema was home-schooled.

In addition, Shaelynn Lehano, 9, died in 2016 of starvation. Her parents and grandmother are now facing murder charges. Lehano had been pulled from school prior to her death.

Hawaii County Prosecutor's Office testified on Wednesday saying "Peter Boy" would be alive today if this bill was in effect.

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