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May / June 2005

Nourishing your special needs child

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Family avoids portfolio review

For many years, Florida law has allowed school districts to inspect homeschoolers' portfolios with only 15 days' written notice. Unfortunately, too many school districts have misused this law to randomly harass innocent homeschooling families.

Last October, Lee County School District sent a letter to homeschoolers requiring them to submit their portfolios for the 2003-04 school year in order to be "evaluated." The only reason given for the inspection was "the number of families enrolled in the program."

On behalf of a Home School Legal Defense Association member family, HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka wrote a letter to the school district explaining that this demand violated the intent of the law, since there was no probable cause indicating that the family was not complying with the law. Requiring them to unnecessarily submit a portfolio was nothing more than harassment. Klicka added that the family was invoking the Florida Religious Freedom Act based on their belief that submitting to a portfolio review would violate their religious convictions.

After months of correspondence between HSLDA, the school district, and the school attorney, the district finally relented. In a letter dated January 24, 2005, the school attorney stated, "[M]y client . . . advised that they will wait until the annual evaluation for education progress to get the needed information from the family" (i.e., the annual standardized achievement test).

HSLDA is encouraged by this response. The school district essentially acknowledged the family's right to exercise their religious convictions by not participating in the random portfolio review.

We urge any other HSLDA member families who are opposed to their portfolios being reviewed to contact our office so we can intervene on your behalf.

— by Christopher J. Klicka