Department of Education Issues Guide for Establishing A Private or Religious School
At the beginning of the 1996-97 school year, the Alaska Department of Education distributed a document entitled, "A Guide for Establishing a Private or Religious School." Most home schooling families in Alaska operate as either religious or private schools.
While the guide is helpful in most respects, it contains some erroneous information which Home School Legal Defense Association has brought to the attention of the state officials. The instructions for the proposed school calendar erroneously cite state laws which apply only to public schools and other schools not exempt from state education laws. (Private and religious schools meeting certain requirements are in the exempt category.)
Specifically, the "Proposed School Calendar" information references Sections 14.03.030, 14.03.040, and 14.03.070 of Alaska Statutes, provisions which do not relate to any religious or other private schools claiming an exemption from these laws. Most noteworthy is the public school requirement that every school day be at least four hours long. While religious and private schools must operate on a regular schedule during at least 180 days of the year, there is no requirement for the length of each school day.
Immunization Status Sought for Home School Children
In September 1996, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services mailed a letter to all known home educators seeking the immunization status of children enrolled in the home school. Accompanying the letter was a "Annual Immunization Assessment Report" which parents were asked to complete and return by October 1, 1996.
HSLDA is of the opinion that state law does not require that immunization information be furnished to the Department of Health and Social Services. Rather, religious and private schools must maintain permanent student records reflecting the immunizations and must certify to the Department of Education, not the Department of Health and Social Services, that the required records are being maintained.
Unless a religious or medical exemption is claimed, all children enrolled in a home school must receive the immunizations designated by the Department of Health and Social Services.
Therefore, only the Department of Education has the authority to request certification of immunizations. There is no requirement that the religious or private school take the initiative to provide the information. Nor are home schools required to permit inspection of the actual immunization records or do any additional type of reporting.
HSLDA Visits Alaska
From October 16 to 21, attorney Christopher Klicka of the National Center for Home Education, a division of HSLDA, accompanied by his wife, Tracy, visited Alaska. Chris had the opportunity to speak to nearly 800 home schoolers at three home school seminars sponsored by the Alaska Private and Home Educators Association (APHEA) in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau. During the trip, Chris and Tracy also took the time to enjoy the awesome beauty of the landscape and even did a little dog sledding.
Chris was able to meet and develop contact with Bill Elkinton of the Alaska Department of Education. Mr. Elkinton helps run the Alyeska Central School, which is Alaska's centralized correspondence school. Opening this line of communication will help resolve problems with school officials as they crop up.
Proposed Truancy Ordinance Defeated
A daytime curfew for Anchorage had been proposed under the guise of a "Truancy Prevention Ordinance." At the Anchorage home school seminar, Chris was able to generate hundreds of signatures on a petition opposing the curfew. He also prepared a legal memorandum explaining the unconstitutionality of the curfew and settling for nothing less than complete withdrawal of the curfew. The assembly hearing on the curfew proposal was scheduled for November 12.
The home schoolers, meanwhile, continued to pressure the Anchorage Assembly to reject the "Truancy Prevention Ordinance." By God's grace, the assembly decided to remove all curfew provisions from the truancy ordinance before the hearing! We praise God and thank the local home schoolers and APHEA for their tireless efforts.
More and more curfews are being enacted in cities across the country, and home schoolers are being caught in the dragnet. Innocent home school children are being questioned as they exercise their right to travel under their parents' direction. Police officers are stopping home school children and questioning them, and sometimes detaining them. These types of laws are curtailing the freedom of the many innocent minors across the country.
If you would like information on daytime curfews, please contact HSLDA at P.O. Box 159, Paeonian Springs, Virginia 20129, or call us at (540) 338-5600.