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House committee votes down ‘Raylee’s Law,’ which would bar homeschooling in child abuse cases 

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House committee votes down ‘Raylee’s Law,’ which would bar homeschooling in child abuse cases 

Feb 19, 2024 | 7:30 pm ET
By Amelia Ferrell Knisely
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House committee votes down ‘Raylee’s Law,’ which would bar homeschooling in child abuse cases 
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Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, introduced Raylee's Law, which would have prevented any parent or guardian facing child abuse charges or who was convicted of domestic violence from homeschooling their children, as an amendment to House Bill 5180 on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Charleston, W.Va. (Perry Bennett | West Virginia Legislative Photography)

House lawmakers again opted not to sign off on barring parents facing a child abuse investigation from homeschooling their children.

The proposal, which on Monday was introduced as a bill amendment by Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, has been brought to the Legislature since 2019 but never passed. 

“In the meantime, we keep hearing of these horrific incidents that could be prevented if we could actually do something meaningful here to protect these kids,” Pushkin told members of the House Committee on Education. “If we save one kid’s life with this, it’s worth it.”

The legislation, “Raylee’s Law,” was named for an eight-year-old girl who died of abuse and neglect in 2018 after her parents withdrew her from school. Educators at her elementary school had notified Child Protective Services of potential abuse. 

Pushkin referenced Raylee in his amendment as he tried to tack it onto House Bill 5180, which would lessen requirements for parents overseeing homeschool education. 

He also referenced a recent high-profile abuse and neglect case in Kanawha County where kids were kept locked in a shed. The parents were homeschooling the children. 

“The reason the kids were kept home is so no one can spot their abuse,” he said. 

The amendment, defeated with a 15-5 vote, would have prevented any parent or guardian facing child abuse charges or who was convicted of domestic violence from homeschooling their children.

Several Republican lawmakers listed their issues with it, including that pending child abuse investigations could take months to sort out and the children would be forced to enter public school in the meantime. 

Committee Chair Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, said there were parts of the amendment that he supported but worried about the length of child abuse investigations, including those that ended up as false allegations. 

“This could be abused very easily,” he said. “I would say the majority of children who are abused are in the school system.”

The West Virginia Child Advocacy Centers, which help children who have been abused, reported a 10% increase in kids served in 2023. 

Pushkin said that he didn’t think the vast majority of homeschool parents engaged in child abuse or neglect.

Current state law already allows school boards to deny homeschool requests under “good and reasonable justification,” though lawmakers noted that school boards may not know that a parent is facing child abuse charges. 

Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, voted against the amendment, but asked the committee chair to consider putting one of her measures, House Bill 5530, on the agenda. Her legislation would require Child Protective Services to notify the county school superintendent and local board of education president of a pending CPS investigation in the relevant district. 

She said as of now, school systems are “without the information to make a good decision.”

Bills are due out of committees and onto the House floor for debate by Feb. 25. 

The committee did pass the bill changing some homeschool reporting requirements. The legislation would remove the requirement that parents or legal guardians submit to the county superintendent academic assessments for students in grades three, five, eight and 11 by June 30.