The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXIII
No. 2
Cover
March/April
2007

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NEW JERSEY

School Demands Proof of Parent ‘Competence’

When the Guidance and Testing Department of Camden City Public Schools sent a letter to homeschooling mom Olga Bonett demanding that she prove her “competence” to teach her own children, she immediately asked Home School Legal Defense Association for help.

The letter was issued after Ms. Bonett sent a notice (not required by law) to the school district that she was homeschooling. In addition to proof of competence, the letter demanded a list of courses and content to be taught in the homeschool, books and materials to be used, and an hourly and daily schedule. It stated that this information was to be submitted annually “in order for the Home School process to be continued for your child.”

Under New Jersey law, Ms. Bonett was not obligated to supply any of the information that was demanded.

Prior to 2000, there was considerable confusion—even among government officials—as to what was required of homeschoolers, because former commissioner of education Leo Klagholtz had issued “guidelines” that attempted to impose many duties on families with no lawful basis whatsoever.

Klagholtz’s successor, David Hespe, consulted with officials and homeschool leaders to publish a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about homeschooling that was remarkably consistent with state statutory and case law. As a result, the former endemic confusion and conflict melted away. Since that time, when officials overstep their boundaries, the FAQs have been very helpful in reining them back in.

After Ms. Bonett explained her situation to HSLDA Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff, he had a long conversation with the Camden City school official who sent the letter. It became clear that the official was just following a routine that had been established long ago, no doubt prior to the 2000 publication of the FAQs. She was very receptive when Woodruff explained that her letter was dramatically out of step with the FAQs.

Three days later, Olga Bonett received a letter from the school official acknowledging that she had the right to completely disregard the previous illegal demands.

— by Scott A. Woodruff