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IDAHO COURT UPHOLDS SCHOOL-ATTENDANCE LAW

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The Idaho law requiring parents to send their school-age children to classes or provide a comparable education is constitutional, the Court of Appeals says.

The court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the contempt citation and three-day jail term ordered for Walter Bayes in his dispute with school authorities over the education of his children.In a Canyon County case, Bayes and his wife, who believe in home schooling, were taken to court by the Wilder School District for failing to send their school-age children to public schools.

Eventually an agreement was reached whereby the Bayes would teach their children at home but agree to testing twice a year to determine if they were getting an education comparable to that provided by public schools.

Court records said Bayes allowed the testing in 1986, but in April 1987 refused to allow testing of his children.

Bayes was found in contempt of court and sentenced to jail.

The Court of Appeals rejected his argument that he was entitled to a jury trial on the contempt charge. A jury trial is available only on serious contempt charges, which can be punished as a felony.

In a lesser contempt proceeding, there is no such right, the court said.

Bayes also claimed that under the agreement, if he chose not to comply, the parties would revert to a hearing on the original truancy complaint.

"This argument is not well-founded, for it flies in the face of the record," the court said, because the testing agreement was clearly set out in court records.

Bayes also said the mandatory school law is unconstitutionally vague because it says children educated at home must be "comparably instructed."

The law says children must be instructed in subjects commonly and usually taught in public schools and in conformance with a district's policies and regulations.

"Anyone sincerely desiring to comply with the law has ready access through the Department of Education to the list of subjects required to be taught, and to the local school district's policies and regulations," the court said.