Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Home-schooling mom speaks out against truancy allegations

Here's the entire article reprinted with permission
from the Southern Illinoisan
June 10, 2005
Home-schooling mom speaks out against truancy allegations
the southern

MARION - The home-schooling mom from Marion who was charged by State's Attorney Charles Garnati with permitting truancy, a Class C misdemeanor, pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday before Judge Phillip Palmer in Williamson County Circuit Court.

Kim Harris, 44, is alleged to have willingly and knowingly allowed her now 16-year-old son to be truant, first from the Marion school district as a student at the high school, and then later as a home-schooling mother who is accused of not following through with an established curriculum.

Harris told her side of the story Thursday.

"I had a meeting here with the truancy officer (Mickey Sullivan), Marion High School Assistant Principal Gerald Murphy and Mr. Garnati right here in his office and Mr. Garnati okayed me home-schooling my son," Harris said. "I feel like I'm being singled out when I haven't done anything wrong."

Garnati said his recollection differ! s from Harris's. He said there was indeed a meeting, but he never "OK'd" Harris to home-school her son. He said he was against the idea all the way, but Illinois law prohibited him from stopping her.

Harris said she felt harassed by the truancy officer - that Sullivan was escorted by other policemen giving the appearance to neighbors that there was an ongoing crime at her home.

Harris said she and her son were home the first two times Sullivan visited her home unannounced, but had gone shopping the third time this spring, which led to charges from the state's attorney's office.

Sullivan was unavailable for comment Thursday, but said previously that Harris produced "no evidence of home-schooling" on any of the three occasions she met with the family.

Harris disagreed.

"She (Sullivan) didn't think I could home-school, that I wasn't smart

enough," Harris said.

Harris explained she didn't pull her son out of Marion High School fo! r educational reasons, but for reasons of safety. She said her son was involved in a fight with other teens on one occasion and then stabbed in the lip with a sharp object a second time at a local Huck's grocery by the same group of teens.

"I felt like his life was threatened, so I pulled him out of school because the same group of boys attend that school. And I'd do it again, too. No education is worth risking your life."

A single parent, Harris said her 16-year-old son is one of six children. The eldest, a female, is 20 and did not graduate from high school. There is also a 17-year-old daughter who dropped out of school and three younger girls, ages 12, 10 and 8, who Harris claims are doing quite well in school.

Because she is now employed with the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation as a personal attendant in Benton, Harris said she no longer has the time to home-school her son and that she was looking into transferring him to an alternative educational center this fall.

In the meanwhile, she must endure a cour! t battle that will run into September.

"In a way, I'm going to miss home-schooling my son," Harris said. "We drew closer to one another when we read books together. I think home-schooling's great."


618-997-3356 x15807

Copyright, 2005, Southern Illinoisan

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