Mapp Rightly Vetoes ‘Unrealistic, Uncomprehensive’ Homeschool Bill Promoted By St. Croix Senators Past and Present
CHILD ABUSE THREAT: Advocates of the homeschool/family prison law are Sen. Novelle Francis (left) U.S. Virgin Islands Homeschoolers President Amy Herrick (middle) and Attorney Scott Woodruff (right).
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Child safety advocates are hailing the fact that Gov. Kenneth Mapp vetoed the deeply-flawed homeschool/”family prison” law which the Legislature passed in its last session.
The failed Bill 31-0391 was pushed in December by former Rules Committee Chair Kenneth Gittens, who was resoundingly voted out of office just the month before.
“This measure creates substantial issues which will require further review and revisions to ensure that the intent of the bill comports with the protections of our territory’s students and their educational needs,” Mapp said. “This measure as written restricts the Commissioner of the Department of Education from promulgating rules and regulations to regulate homeschooling in the territory.”
But Attorney Scott Woodruff, who testified on behalf of the bill sponsored by Sen. Novelle Francis last year, said that the V.I. Board of Education “seeks to impose burdensome and intrusive homeschool regulations” on the territory, some of which have been in place since 1998.
“The governor and the Senate recognize that the homeschool community earnestly desires a more friendly home school law and that we are committed to achieving this goal,” Woodruff said. “We expect that the bill will be refiled following discussions with various parties, perhaps with slightly different language.”
Mapp said that his primary problem with the failed legislation is that it only requires homeschool students to satisfy the requirements of four courses, “which does not align with the requirements of the V.I. Board of Education.”
“There is nothing in the bill that requires the certification of parents in subject matters and curriculum who endeavor to homeschool their children or to measure the performance of such parents and students,” the governor said. “This bill reduces the educational integrity of learning and standards and permits the home school person to determine what is best to teach and what level of learning the student should achieve.”
But Mapp seemed to hold out hopes that a revised homeschool bill could eventually pass muster if members of the Legislature work with the V.I. Department of Education “and other stakeholders to fine-tune and work on passing a realistic comprehensive homeschooling bill that would meet the necessary benchmarks to insure and maintain student achievement.”
The Coalition for Responsible Education said that many students who are homeschooled leave their households “so woefully undereducated” that they are underqualified even for a fast-food job, because they can barely read or write. And child advocates say the potential for abuse, physical, sexual and psychological nearly quadruples in a homeschool setting where parents are free to educate — or not educate their children as they see fit.