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By Scott A. Woodruff, Senior Counsel –Homeschool Legal Defense Association
Some government officials have been pushing towns and cities to adopt daytime curfews.
Regardless of how they may be worded, all daytime curfews must be opposed because they limit the simple freedom of moving about. Our young people should be able to enjoy the freedom of normal movement without fear of being challenged by a police officer. So-called “exceptions” for homeschoolers don’t cure the problem. The result would be the same: our kids will be stopped and questioned by police for doing nothing wrong.
The alert citizens of Salem, Illinois, spotted a daytime curfew in the works and jumped in to oppose it. And that battle continues. But we suspect other towns may be in the same position as Salem.
I urge you to carefully check the agenda of your town or city government and see if a daytime curfew is under consideration. If so, please notify us at once so a prompt and effective opposition can be organized.
1. Daytime curfews do not deter juvenile crime.
A recent California study compared the juvenile crime rates of counties that enforced curfew ordinances and counties that did not.
The crime rates were the same. The curfews had no effect on juvenile crime.
2. Daytime curfews allow searches without probable cause.
The Fourth Amendment forbids any investigation of a citizen without a “probable cause.” The proposed ordinance allows policemen to stop and interrogate a person merely because he looks young enough to be violating the curfew. It is an invitation to harass homeschool families.
3. Daytime curfews assume a person is guilty until proven innocent.
In several incidents where homeschool students were stopped by police, they had done nothing to arouse suspicion. There was no evidence they had committed a crime or intended to. Nonetheless, the police interrogated them and treated them like criminals until they had proved their innocence.
4. The ordinance allows some exceptions. Unfortunately, the only way for a policeman to determine if an exception applies is to stop and interrogate the frightened young person. By then the damage has already been done. The child may be afraid to go outdoors again. The right to homeschool includes the right to be free from fear–especially for young people, who are most vulnerable to feelings of fear.