Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The long arm of the state

This afternoon I had a conversation about paperwork with an official at a Whatcom County Parent Partnership Program (PPP). It doesn't matter which one, because this applies to all of you who use them.

Some of you homeschoolers are using classes from ZLO as part of your 25 weekly hours required to complete the Student Learning Plan (SLP) required by your participation in the PPP. The gist of the phone call was to ask if ZLO would sign paperwork showing that background checks are run on our instructors, because that was necessary for students whose ZLO work is included in the SLP. Each and every instructor used by a PPP student showing on the SLP must have the background check performed by the Washington State Patrol (WSP), and if any instructor on their SLP list is a one-on-one instructor, such as a piano teacher, then that person must be fingerprinted.

I made it very clear that ZLO instructors who choose to tutor anyone one-on-one do so outside of their ZLO work. ZLO does not require fingerprinting for instructors. We do perform the WSP criminal record check. We also make a lot of phone calls to check references and we require our new instructors to teach a lesson to our board of directors.

Let me suggest where this is going.

I KNOW that in writing that SLP that homeschool families dig to make up their 25 hours of educational time. For most students, homeschooling requires much less than 25 hours per week to complete while keeping a child at grade level. I have heard of families recording time spent washing dishes, mowing lawns, cleaning garages, etc. as educational time in order to complete the required time for the SLP. That data is recorded and kept somewhere. What your family does, perhaps how often you wash dishes, is in the hands of state officials somewhere. Could that ever be used against you?

It sounds like a silly question, but the person I spoke to is already referring to the 'risk management team', and that means attorneys at the state level who want no part of being accused of allowing child molestation when all a piano teacher did was sit next to a student playing duets. I'm quite certain the piano teacher is thinking about that when permitting him- or herself to be fingerprinted, and you should also be thinking about it when you fill out that SLP.

The administrator I spoke with endorsed the mound of paperwork for these background checks, claiming that if it protects even one student from abuse then it was worth it. I find it interesting that abuse and molestation in the public schools is on the rise by both male and female instructors, who were fingerprinted prior to beginning teaching. Sounds to me like you had better go and hang out in your child's classroom. You can take any class your child is in for free at ZLO.

Could they come back some day and accuse you of putting your child at risk mowing the lawn? Are you a qualified landscape engineer with a state contractor's license that you could guide your child to properly use power equipment like that? If you were a landscape engineer, would you allow a child under 18 to operate such equipment while in your employ? Could you also be accused under child labor laws of requiring a child to do such labor? Could a rebellious and angry child or a wayward spouse or a nosy neighbor accuse you of any of this at some point in the future and use that paperwork to prove it?

How many of you parents might NOT "pass" a background or fingerprinting check? Would that disqualify you to be homeschoolers? Could the state then come by and require you to enroll your child in a public school classroom?

I'm not interested in "Officials we've spoken to in Olympia say..." because that's their opinion this week. Next week, with a different person seated in that position, it could work out altogether differently. How many of you have had such conversations with folks in a city or county planning department concerning a structure you wanted to build?

SLP's and PPP's might not have been created with the intent of corralling parents into becoming an arm of the state, and extension of the public classroom, but that is becoming the end effect of them.

You do NOT need to fill out an SLP if you are homeschooling. That is not required of you when you fill out homeschooling paperwork at your local school district. You do NOT need to fill out an SLP if you are using classes from ZLO. You hire us like you hire the piano teacher. You're in control. And it should be that way.

As administrator for ZLO, deeply committed to protecting our right to teach from a Christian, Biblically-based viewpoint and our right to teach the best way we know how, I will not sign any paperwork for PPP's, not about what we teach or how we investigate our instructors. What we do is on our website. Click on Our Instructors, and then click on the link at the bottom of that page about knowing more about becoming a ZLO instructor.

I've already been asked by a PPP administrator if a math class isn't just a math class, and couldn't PPP funds be used to pay for that? In my geometry class we talk about how we have 360 degrees in a circle. The story starts with the Babylonians, continues with Daniel in that court and ends with the wise men at the birth of Jesus. If there's a problem with state funds being used while I tell that story then I guess it's not just a math class, is it? All of education should be about opening and soaking our souls in the wonder of our Creator. I will not be muzzled!

Educationists have long sought to disqualify the parent. I remember well the day in one of my university classes on education when they told us that we were the experts, that we knew better than the parents. While I do not believe that the administrators of the PPP's intend destruction any more than does any educator, I do believe that if they choose to not cooperate with the state that control will be ripped out of their hands, and what they thought they built for good will be used to dismantle the families they sought to enrich and support.

I will not be a part of this. I will not fill out or sign any paperwork from PPP's describing or guaranteeing what we teach or who we hire. I will not give them any control, or any leverage that could be used against us in the future. I know that I will be cutting off some of you who maneuver PPP funds to help pay for ZLO classes. They claim they're trying to protect your child from molestation. I'm trying to protect your family from the state.


Molly Crocker
Administrator, ZLO