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I N   T H E   T R E N C H E S

Access for military students clarified

As reported in the March/April 2002 Court Report, families who combine homeschooling and a military lifestyle face some unique challenges. Home School Legal Defense Association believes that the more the United States military understands homeschoolers, the more it will respect their freedom as they seek to meet those challenges.

Facilitating that kind of positive relationship between the military and homeschooling families takes a great deal of work on all levels. Earlier this spring, HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka and National Center for Home Education Director Tom Washburne met with Director of the Department of Defense Education Activities (DODEA) Dr. Joseph Tafoya.

"Our goal in the April 8 meeting," Chris Klicka said, "was to help military officials better understand this highly effective educational alternative and to ensure accurate implementation of a recent federal homeschool measure—House Resolution 830, also known as the 'Equal Access Amendment.'"

Originally drafted by HSLDA, H.R. 830 became law in late 2001 as an amendment to the Defense Reauthorization Act. This language amended the Defense Dependent's Act of 1978 to allow homeschool students who were eligible for enrollment in a school of the overseas Defense Dependent's Education System to use auxiliary services of such schools.

"Up until this point," Klicka said, "military homeschoolers overseas were only allowed to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities if they actually enrolled their children in two or more classes in the DOD school. Most homeschoolers did not want to be enrolled—they just wanted to participate in an occasional sport or extracurricular activity. H.R. 830 directs the military to allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities without DOD enrollment."

Klicka and Washburne explained the legalities of civilian and military homeschooling throughout the U.S. and overseas. HSLDA also presented research demonstrating the academic and social achievement of homeschool students.

The result? Several points of agreement regarding H.R. 830 were reached at the meeting:

  • First, Dr. Tafoya concurred that H.R. 830 only applies to U.S. military and civilians working for the Department of Defense for at least one year or more. Any others are not covered, may participate only on a space-available basis, and must pay for DODEA services.

  • Second, since there is a need for identification of eligible homeschool children, HSLDA and Dr. Tafoya concurred that the identification of eligible homeschool children would be through simply submitting a copy of the orders that the civilian working for the military or the military member had received. To protect the privacy of the family, the copies of the orders would be destroyed at the end of the academic year and no permanent records would be kept.

  • Third, for security reasons, Dr. Tafoya agreed the military would be very careful to notify parents of homeschool children about various activities sponsored by the DODEA. Various methods of notification were discussed, such as notices on bulletin boards at the DODEA schools and postings on the websites that would direct contact to the military homeschool support group on the base.

  • Fourth, it was agreed that HSLDA would have an opportunity to review the DODEA's draft homeschooling policy and also to contribute to a memo answering a series of frequently asked questions to ensure a common understanding among all involved parties.

HSLDA will continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as needed.