Across the States
On a recent visit to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Home School Legal Defense Association Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly learned from a senior legislator’s aide that over 6,500 bills had been filed during the opening days of the 2007 legislative season. With that many legislative proposals flying through the House, there was sure to be a threat to homeschooling somewhere in their midst.
These bills included an attempt to raise the compulsory attendance age to 18, introduced by Representative Garrett Bradley of Hingham. HSLDA strongly opposes this legislation. We encourage you to contact your state legislators and ask them to vote against House Bill 394. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has gone on record as favoring an increase in the compulsory attendance age during high school, and compulsory attendance legislation is being pushed in states all over the country. HSLDA strongly opposes such laws because they are ineffective and create new controls over homeschooling families. (Information on the compulsory attendance age issue is available at www.hslda.org/107)
Protecting homeschool freedoms in state legislatures is made possible through the joint effort of HSLDA and state homeschooling organizations, such as the Massachusetts Homeschool Organization of Parent Educators (MassHOPE).
Nearly 30 support groups were represented at MassHOPE’s biannual retreat for support group leaders on January 12-13, 2007. Mike Donnelly had the opportunity to address the group, issuing a warning about the state of parental rights in Massachusetts and emphasizing the need for a parental rights amendment to the United States Constitution. HSLDA is deeply grateful to MassHOPE for its proactive monitoring of bills and communication with support groups about legislation affecting homeschooling.
— by Michael P. Donnelly
Districts Impose Unlawful Requirements
HSLDA Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly has been working with a number of school districts to improve policies and procedures.
A superintendent in South Hadley has a practice of meeting with all new or first-time homeschoolers in his district before he approves their homeschool plan. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a parent/superintendent meeting, any school official who requires an in-person meeting as a condition of approving a homeschool plan is acting unlawfully. Massachusetts law requires that a family be given an opportunity to present their homeschool plan, but it does not require families to present their plan in person. We encourage homeschooling families in Massachusetts to comply with the law and to follow their conscience in homeschooling their children.
Other school districts are going beyond the law in requiring assessments other than a periodic standardized test, which is the minimum assessment standard in Massachusetts. Some districts have been requiring families to submit midyear progress reports. And in Amherst, new school officials are attempting to enforce an outdated policy of requesting annual portfolios as well as not approving homeschool proposals for months. In some cases, Amherst officials are threatening and actually taking legal action against homeschooling families. HSLDA is defending these families in proceedings that threaten their homeschools.
HSLDA interprets “periodic standardized test” to mean an annual standardized test. However, families have the freedom to take advantage of alternative assessment approaches such as progress reports, work samples, portfolios, and written evaluations. While parents are free to choose a different assessment, a district may not require any assessment approach other than the periodic standardized test unless the parents agree to it.
If you are aware of a practice or policy that is contrary to Massachusetts homeschool law, please notify HSLDA. It is our objective to help make homeschooling as free as possible. We appreciate your support and congratulate you for the commitment and dedication you demonstrate by choosing to homeschool your children.
— by Michael P. Donnelly