A religious boarding school in northern Montana named Pinehaven Ranch has no license, no accreditation and employs teachers who are not certified, and is now dealing with allegations that the staff used violence to discipline students.
And yet the Montana GOP has voted, on a party line, to allow such schools to continue to go unregulated. CNN ran a big story about it tonight on the Anderson Cooper 360 show, with interviews with Montana legislators Jenny Eck and Krayton Kerns. Eck is a progressive democrat and Kerns, chairman of the Montana house judiciary, is one of the loudest and proudest Tea Partiers in America. Eck made an emotional appeal to the committee on which she sits, and which Kerns chairs, during a hearing on HB 236, a bill which would make homes for troubled kids like Pineheaven Ranch subject to the same regulation as other youth homes. As in, the state government would be allowed to get involved when school children at private religious schools are allegedly being abused. Religious schools, under current state law, are exempt from regulation.
Kerns, meanwhile, did not disappoint. He said, in an interview with CNN’s Gary Tuchman who paid a visit to the Montana legislature, that not only should schools like Pinehaven not be subject to any state education laws, but that all laws and regulations for all schools, public or otherwise, should be abolished.
The injustice was clearly on Eck’s mind in the committee when she pointed out to the committee that Kerns that allowed the headmaster of the school 20 minutes for his testimony against the bill, but gave opponents of the bill only a few seconds a piece.
And so, the general narrative that has been circulating in the media is that all is well at the Capitol and that “this Session is so much better than last session,” is not true at all. When it comes to the House Judiciary committee, the Montana legislature is still making national news for its awfulness. Perhaps now our own Montana press will get the true picture. HB 236 is sponsored by Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula). Here’s the video: