The Home School Court Report
No. 5

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Religious Exemption: A Powerful Tool

Devout Christians Jerry and Denise Brockman became convicted that they should educate their children at home rather than have them attend public school. They mailed a letter to the Lancaster County School Board asking for acknowledgement that their younger children were exempt from compulsory attendance because of their religious objection to public school attendance. The school board asked them to attend a meeting to answer questions.

Home School Legal Defense Association Attorney Scott Woodruff represented our member family at the hearing. He hired a court reporter to record the proceedings in case the board rejected the exemption and an appeal was necessary. The parents and their witnesses were prepared to testify, should they be called on.

Woodruff deflected a board member’s attempt to handle the hearing as a “closed” meeting, which would have resulted in the public and the court reporter being excluded. Woodruff presented an additional letter from the family and a detailed legal memorandum to the board. He also answered several questions from the board members, and after a brief discussion, they unanimously approved the exemption.

The local newspaper published an article about the hearing and a separate article about the family, both with photos, and the editor invited the Brockmans to write a letter for publication in the newspaper, describing steps to begin homeschooling. Mr. Brockman was asked to speak to a group about his faith, and many people in the community have contacted the family for more information about homeschooling.

Virginia’s religious exemption statute is a powerful tool for protecting the constitutionally guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion. We know of numerous instances where officials have told homeschooling families not operating under the religious exemption statute that they must stop homeschooling. Many families who homeschool because of religious convictions choose to operate under the religious exemption statute to protect themselves from this kind of threat.

— by Scott A. Woodruff