The Home School Court Report
- disclaimer -
July / August 2003

Homeschoolers shine at competitions
Ready for the new school year
Farris given prize
The tide turns with the Stumbo decision

Signs of the turning tide

Timeline of the Stumbo case

The Stumbos' thoughts
Bush signs bill to protect families

Along the way

The National Center for Home Education
Freedom Watch

Watching school choice issues
From the heart
Across the states
Members only
Active Cases
About Campus
President's page

Beyond our expectations


Prayer & Praise

a contrario sensu (on the other hand)

HSLDA social services contact policy/A plethora of forms

HSLDA legal contacts for March/April 2003



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Homeschool Advisory update

In 1987, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that homeschooling was constitutionally protected. The next year, the Massachusetts Department of Education released an Advisory on Home Education that grudgingly advised school districts to approve homeschool programs. The document suggested a number of ways to regulate homeschooling, including home visits. Since 1988, the Supreme Judicial Court has issued two more opinions on homeschooling, including one that forbids home visits. Despite this, the Advisory on Home Education has not been changed since 1988. For at least eight years, various attorneys in the department have been working on a new draft Advisory. On June 9, 2003, Home School Legal Defense Association Attorney Scott Somerville flew to Massachusetts to sit down with department attorneys for one more round of negotiations on the new Advisory. The department says it hopes to release an updated advisory by the start of the 2003-2004 school year.

All of Massachusetts' statewide homeschool organizations have worked together to advise the department of problems in the existing advisory and the working draft. Attorney Somerville met with department officials in the mid-1990s, along with representatives from Massachusetts Homeschool Organization of Parent Educators and the Massachusetts Home Learning Association. At that time, the department assured homeschoolers that a new advisory would be released in a matter of months. Years later, homeschool leaders have become more pessimistic about such promises.

The fundamental problem in releasing a new Advisory on Home Education may well be the gap between what the law requires and what educational officials are willing to admit. Since homeschooling is constitutionally protected in Massachusetts, school officials can do relatively little to regulate homeschooling in general and nothing at all to regulate a family who can demonstrate educational success. Under Massachusetts law, it is a crime to operate a homeschool that is worse than the local public school, but a family is free to operate a homeschool that meets or exceeds local school district performance, with or without the district's permission. The department of education has not yet been willing to advise local school districts to ease up on homeschool regulations, even though most existing regulations are clearly unenforceable. For now, the department seems to prefer to hand out advice that is both outdated and unhelpful rather than recognize homeschool freedom.

Scott W. Somerville