The Home School Court Report
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MAY / JUNE 2001
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PHC: Wrapping up year one
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Comprehensive health education

Home schooling families have long recognized the importance of knowing their state law thoroughly. Sometimes the key to preserving freedom is found in seemingly small technical details.

Vermont's home school statute requires that home school families teach "comprehensive health education including the effects of tobacco, alcoholic drinks, and drugs on the human system and on society" as part of the "minimum course of study" mandated under Title 16, §906. But what does this include?

Some Vermont Department of Education officials have argued that a definition of "comprehensive health education" found in Title 16, §131 should apply here. This definition includes items as pollution, world health, HIV infection, "interaction between parents and student," dental health, health costs, and abortion.

This is not, however, what the legislature intended. The definition in Title 16, §131 is preceded by a crucial phrase-"for the purposes of this subchapter." This means that "comprehensive health education" only has this definition when it is used in the context of subchapter seven of chapter one of Vermont statutes. Therefore, it cannot apply to the "minimum course of study" home school families must teach under Title 16, §906, which is part of a completely different section of the law-subchapter one of chapter 23.

Reinforcing the legislature's intent that §906 stand alone is the fact that within §906 itself the legislature specified what should be included in "comprehensive health education"

and did not refer to the §131 definition.

Finally, Title 16, §166b(i) states that: "Nothing in this section requires that a home study program follow the program or methods used by the public schools." [Emphasis added.]

The §131 definition is part of a public school program. Title 16, §132(b) states: "The counsel [advisory counsel on comprehensive health education] shall assist the Department of Education in planning a program of comprehensive health education in the public schools." [Emphasis added.]

Home School Legal Defense Association recommends that our member families comply with the minimum course of study requirement of §906, but we believe they are under no obligation to follow the specific program requirements intended only for use in public schools found in Title 16, §131. Scott A. Woodruff