The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXII
No. 2
Cover
March/April
2006

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ILLINOIS

Will County drags family into court

Illinois homeschools have been considered "private schools" ever since an important Illinois State Supreme Court case from 1950. The law simply requires these private schools to teach the same branches of instruction in English as the public school does.

Nonetheless, certain school districts tend to demand more of homeschoolers than is actually required by law. Will County is no exception. In November 2005, a truant officer from the regional superintendent's office made a phone call to the Walters,* a Home School Legal Defense Association member family in Joliet, asserting that their children were truant. After the Walters contacted HSLDA, we immediately wrote a letter to the school district explaining that they were homeschooling in full compliance with the law.

Unsatisfied, the truant officer sent the family's information to the prosecutor and subsequently filed truancy charges against the family. The charges stated that one of their four children was "a chronic truant" and "in need of supervision."

HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher J. Klicka researched the state education code and discovered that the truant officer had violated a statute requiring written notice of truancy to the family before actual charges could be filed. Klicka counseled Mr. Walters to ask the judge for a continuance until HSLDA could arrange for a local attorney to be present.

Refusing to hear anything about homeschooling, the judge cut Mr. Walters off when he asked for a continuance. The judge also insisted that the child needed to be in school the next day.

Klicka then advised Mrs. Walters to go to the school district the next day to talk to the regional superintendent. The superintendent was impressed when he saw that she had a teaching certificate, lesson plans, and plenty of books. When he learned that his truant officer had not filed proper notice according to state code, which would have prevented the situation, he was concerned. Mrs. Walters persuaded the regional superintendent to contact the state's attorney and withdraw the truancy charges.

We expect this case to be dropped soon.

Get a GED or get fired!

In November 2005, Richard Belmont,* a young homeschool graduate who had also completed a bachelor's degree, obtained a job working for the same Chicago company that his father worked for. Everything went well until a few months into the job, when a member of the management told Richard that he "must get a GED or be fired."

It seemed ridiculous to require a college graduate to take the GED. The Belmonts, who are members of Home School Legal Defense Association, contacted our legal department for help. We immediately reviewed the case and contacted the employer.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka explained to Richard's employer that a GED is objectionable because it carries the stigma of being a dropout. In fact, decision makers across the nation-from United States congressmen to college officials to military brass-are recognizing that the GED is an outmoded and unnecessary measure for homeschool graduates.

Although Congress formerly required homeschool graduates to obtain a GED in order to receive federal financial assistance for college, Klicka pointed out that a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act has removed this requirement. Ever since, homeschoolers have been able to obtain federal financial aid for college merely by stating that they have a homeschool high school diploma. Klicka further explained that colleges in increasing numbers are abandoning their old GED requirements for homeschoolers, looking instead to more meaningful entrance requirements such as SAT and ACT scores.

Klicka also noted that a 1998 amendment to the Defense Reauthorization bill had removed the military's requirement that homeschool graduates obtain a GED in order to enlist in any branch of the armed forces. Now, homeschooled military recruits simply need to provide a homeschool diploma and transcript to their recruiter.

Eager to resolve the situation, the company management acknowledged that Richard was doing his job well and agreed to drop its demand for a GED.

—by Christopher J. Klicka

* Name changed to protect family's privacy.