The Home School Court Report
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Keeping school officials within the law

In late September, the Florida Department of Education provided representatives from each school district a copy of a document Home School Legal Defense Association prepared, explaining the limits of school districts' authority and what the law requires of home schoolers. Unfortunately, a few counties are misapplying the law.

Lee County Home School Liaison Carolyn Rowlinson has been informing home school families that they are in noncompliance unless they submit a notice of intent every year. Additionally, she is demanding more information than the law requires, such as telephone numbers and previous school location. She claims that the school office needs the information for administration purposes to determine which home school families are late in submitting their evaluations and which are still home schooling. Although HSLDA notified Ms. Rowlinson that Florida law requires families to notify only once-not annually, she continued to misinform local families. HSLDA wrote Lee County Superintendent of Schools John Sanders, asking him to rectify the problem. He responded by agreeing to abide by the law. He wrote,

You are corrected in your description of what information Florida Statue requires parents to provide to school districts in order to establish a home education program. As Superintendent of Lee County Schools, I assure you that no home school program will be denied by the Lee County School District due to a parent's failure to provide more information than is required by statute.

This fall, whenever Mr. Harrell Harrison of Marion County Public Schools sent out routine letters accepting or rejecting home schoolers' annual evaluations, he based the determination on whether "a student's evaluation is below average." HSLDA asked him to change his letter to reflect the proper standard according to Florida law, which is "a level commensurate with his or her ability." He acquiesced and removed the reference to the improper standard.

A Washington County HSLDA member family decided that, since the state compulsory attendance age extends only to 16, they would no longer submit annual educational evaluations for their 16-year-old daughter. As a general rule, Florida law requires children to attend school throughout the entire school term in which they turn 16. After that term, attendance is voluntary. However, the law provides an exception: Sixteen-year-old children are not required to finish the term in which they turn 16 if they submit a Declaration of Intent to Terminate School Enrollment form.

Even though this student had already finished the school term in which she turned 16, the Washington County Director of Administrative Services sent the family this declaration form. The family objected to signing the document, concerned that it would mark their daughter as a dropout. HSLDA explained the law to the director of administrative services, who agreed not to require the family to submit the form.

- Christopher J. Klicka