Thursday marked the 28th legislative day of the 2019 General Assembly session — better known as “Crossover Day,” the final day for legislation, with the exception of the budget, to pass (or “cross over”) from the House to the Senate for final consideration.
The House worked late into the night passing numerous pieces of legislation but I want to use this week’s newsletter to focus on one piece of legislation of particular importance to our community: House Bill 530, which directly addresses the circumstances that led to the deaths of Mary and Elwyn Crocker in Effingham County. House Bill 530 passed the full House on Crossover Day by a vote of 135-28.
House Bill 530 is the product of months of research, discussion and collaboration among various local and state agencies, education associations, and legislators. Working in conjunction with Rep. Bill Hitchens and Sen. Jack Hill, I believe we have crafted a bill which addresses the circumstances that enabled the Crockers’ horrific abuse of their children to go undetected.
In an effort to evade prosecution for child abuse and neglect, the Crockers withdrew Mary and Elwyn from public school, claiming their intention to home school the children. In reality, however, these parents had no intention to educate or care for their children and, as a result, failed to file the required Declaration of Intent (DOI) to home school with the state Department of Education.
Under the provisions of House Bill 530, should a parent or guardian withdraw a child from public school without a DOI and the child fails to attend school for 45 days, the school is empowered to contact the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to conduct an assessment of the child’s well-being.
Should the parent have filed a DOI and, for whatever reason, it failed to be received by the state Department of Education, the presentation of such DOI would terminate the DFCS investigation. This provision provides law-abiding home school families protection from government intrusion.
However, in cases such as the Crocker family, had DFCS performed an assessment under the provision of HB 530, it would also have had cause to launch a full investigation for child abuse based on the conditions in which the children were living.
This legislation provides a much-needed “check” on individuals who would seek to abuse our laws to hide the evil in their hearts and homes. While this bill is far from perfect, it is a meaningful step in protecting the least among us from parental abuse, and, should we be able to save one life thanks to House Bill 530, I know our work will not have been in vain. Rest assured, as we continue through the 2019 session, I will continue to fight for passage of this vital legislation.
As we work hard in the days ahead to strengthen Georgia families and businesses, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail (Jon.Burns@House.Ga.Gov) or engage on Facebook (www.FB.com/JonBurnsGA) with your feedback. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly where he serves as the House majority leader.