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Superintendent Tries to Shut Down Homeschool

Home School Legal Defense Association assisted a member family in West Warwick after the school committee rescinded approval of the family’s homeschool program.

The Fooks family filed a homeschool plan that included submitting a single year-end assessment. Although the school committee approved the plan, the superintendent threatened to ask the school committee to rescind their approval, since the plan did not include submission of a midyear assessment. After the Fooks family contacted HSLDA, staff attorney Scott Woodruff wrote a letter to the superintendent, explaining that the family was following the plan the school committee had approved and assuring him that the family would submit a year-end assessment, as their plan called for.

When the superintendent repeated his demand for a midyear assessment and his rescission threat, Woodruff wrote him a seven-point letter carefully outlining why rescission would be wrong:

  • The family was following an approved plan.

  • Rhode Island statutes do not give school committees power to rescind approval during the school year.

  • The family had submitted year-end assessments in previous years, and these were always accepted.

  • The school committee has no written policy requiring more than one assessment per year.

  • Since the family is homeschooling in response to a call from God, their homeschool program is entitled to the protection of Rhode Island’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Rhode Island General Law 42-80.1 et seq.), which prohibits an agency from restricting the exercise of religious freedom unless it is essential to furthering a compelling governmental interest and a less restrictive option is not available.

  • The family has a right to direct the education of their children under the 14th Amendment.

  • The Rhode Island homeschool statute is unconstitutional because it creates standards which cannot objectively and consistently be administered.

Following the wishes of the superintendent, however, the school committee voted 5-0 to rescind approval of the family’s homeschool program. HSLDA appealed this unjust decision to the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education and requested a hearing.

Meanwhile, at the end of the school year, the family submitted a year-end assessment, as they had agreed to do. It showed the children had made excellent progress.

HSLDA suggested that it made little sense to litigate over an alleged failure to submit a midyear assessment when the assessment for the full year showed excellent progress. The school committee ultimately agreed. They reinstated the family's approval and dismissed the appeal.

— by Scott A. Woodruff