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District Retreats from Time-on-Subject Demand

When the West Warwick superintendent demanded that the Kane family tell him how much time each of their four children was going to spend on each subject, the Kanes called Home School Legal Defense Association for help.

Nothing in Rhode Island law requires families to file this information, but the out-of-date written policy for West Warwick demanded daily time-on-task charts for “all academic subjects.” HSLDA Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff sent a detailed letter to the superintendent explaining why this demand was not lawful.

The superintendent brushed it aside, claiming the demand was authorized based on a vaguely worded “FAQ” answer on the website of the Rhode Island Department of Education. He said he planned to ask the school committee to reject the Kanes’ homeschool plan at its next meeting.

Woodruff flew to Rhode Island to speak on behalf of the family at the school committee meeting. Many other homeschooling families attended the meeting as well to show support. Woodruff explained to the full committee why the time-on-subject demand was not lawful, and asked them to appoint a task force to revise their outdated policy. The committee agreed to appoint a task force to revise the policy, but refused to accept the family's homeschool plan. They did give the family some additional time to work on the issue.

After consulting with the Kanes, Woodruff wrote a letter to the superintendent a few days later, stating the approximate total amount of time per day the children would attend the home instruction program, but firmly refusing to itemize how much time they would spend on each subject. This position was well justified. Rhode Island law requires that homeschooled students attend school for a time period approximately equal to public school students, but it does not mandate how they must spend this time.

The superintendent promptly wrote back and said he would accept this and recommend that the school committee approve the family’s plan.

By way of epilogue, plans to revise the problematic policy are moving forward, and Woodruff has contacted the department of education to ask that they revise the vaguely worded FAQ that appears to be at least partly at the root of the problem.

HSLDA thanks the many families who stood for freedom and attended the school committee meeting to support the Kanes.

— by Scott A. Woodruff