Home School Court Report
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November / December 2003

Colleges and homeschoolers

Paul Owen's story

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2003 art contest

The judges and their thoughts on the artwork

Winners of the three categories
Farris meets with President
A gift for the next generation
Homeschooling grows up

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Abounding in the work of the Lord

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Homeschooling violates federal law?

When Sue Brightwell* decided to teach her 14-year-old son Tyler at home last January, he was excited. Mother and son agreed that home education would be just right for him. Unfortunately, the special education director of their school district disagreed. On January 8, 2003, she wrote,

I am not recommending approval of your request to homeschool Tyler Brightwell. The following are reasons why I'm not recommending approval for homeschooling of Tyler Brightwell: 1. A Home School Program is more restrictive than a Public School Program. School Districts are obliged to provide necessary Special Education Programs and services in the least restrictive environment. 2. Tyler is a bright and capable young man. He needs to be taught by qualified and trained content area teachers. The Federal Law IDEA-'97 requires that students on IEP's are ensured access to the standard curriculum. Home Schooling would deny that opportunity and would be in violation of Federal Law.

Mrs. Brightwell immediately contacted Home School Legal Defense Association. After discussing the situation, however, the Brightwells and HSLDA decided not to press the matter for the remainder of the 2002-2003 school year. During the summer of 2003, the Brightwells renewed their efforts to bring Tyler home from school. They signed up with the Clonlara School, a well-known homeschool program based in Michigan.

The district's special education director, however, was not impressed. She wrote,

I am in receipt of a letter from Clonlara School informing me that your son, Tyler has been enrolled in The Clonlara School for a Home Based Program for Tyler. Enrolling Tyler in The Clonlara School does not negate any of my earlier concerns over your interest in home schooling Tyler. In summary, you are denying Tyler his right to a free and appropriate public Special Education Program by your actions. See attached letter. Given your action, I have no choice but to request an emergency hearing on this matter before the Massachusetts Department of Education Bureau of Special Appeals.

HSLDA Attorney Scott Somerville flew to Massachusetts on September 8, 2003, to meet with Tyler, his parents, school officials, and the attorney for the district. After three hours of intense negotiations, the district agreed to "tentatively" allow Tyler to be taught at home, at least for the first 12 weeks of the school year. Given the excellent homeschool program that awaits Tyler, we are confident that if the district does not officially "approve" Tyler's program for the rest of the year, a court will be sure to rule in his favor. Either way, it looks like Tyler will be enjoying learning at home for the rest of this year.

— Scott W. Somerville

* Names changed to protect family's privacy.