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No. 3

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Success for Homeschoolers

Case: Appeal of 08 Schools
Filed: October 16, 2007

by Nicholas Bolzman

HSLDA has long held the position that homeschoolers in Ohio have two different filing options: parents can file as either a homeschool or a non-chartered, non-tax-supported religious private school—known more commonly as an “08 school.” However, for the last two years the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has challenged the legality of the second option.

During the 2006–07 school year, the resistance was minor; the ODE excluded the home-based 08 schools from its official list, but took no further action. HSLDA was able to intervene and reach a settlement with the ODE, but that only lasted until the end of the school year.

Early in the 2007–08 school year, the ODE took the stance that a single family that educates its children at home must do so under the homeschool regulations, and cannot file as an 08 school. The department rationalized its position on the basis that homes will not comply with the school-building fire code, and thus cannot be considered schools—even though this is a misapplication of the fire code. Subsequently, in addition to rejecting the families who did send in their paperwork, the ODE sent copies of rejection letters to some families’ local school district superintendents, stating that students in the unlisted 08 schools may be considered truant. Fortunately, HSLDA was able to intervene in time to prevent any actual truancy charges.

To overturn the ODE’s decision, HSLDA collected information on the families whose 08 paperwork had been denied and combined their individual cases into one appeal. As we were doing this, more families began to contact us: families who had initially been accepted by the ODE but were then rejected a few weeks later. They also were added to our appeal, which in the end included over 100 families.

HSLDA Litigation Attorney and Senior Counsel James Mason primarily handled this case, negotiating with the Ohio attorney general’s office. By the middle of February 2008, the ODE had decided to dismiss almost all of the cases, agreeing that the families involved were in compliance with state law and were operating legitimate 08 schools. We are confident that the remaining cases will be favorably resolved as well.


Update: Oral Arguments in the Third Circuit

Case: Combs v. Homer-Center School District et al.
Filed: February 2004–05

by Nicholas Bolzman

As we have reported in earlier issues, six Pennsylvania homeschooling families have filed suit against their school districts, claiming that the highly restrictive home education law of Pennsylvania violates their religious freedom. After almost two years of litigation, the U.S. District Court ruled against the families. HSLDA appealed the decision to the Third Circuit, in hopes that the appeals court will protect the families' religious convictions.

In January 2007, HSLDA filed our opening brief in this appeal, and briefs were exchanged over the course of the summer. After briefing was completed, oral arguments were held in Philadelphia last November. Coincidentally, just around the block from the courthouse stand Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

HSLDA Chairman and General Counsel Mike Farris presented the arguments on behalf of the six families, several of whom were in attendance. He explained to the judges that the District Court’s ruling is faulty, and that Pennsylvania’s statute does indeed present a substantial burden on the religious beliefs of the families involved. The judges seemed interested in his arguments, and they questioned the attorneys for both sides vigorously.

After months of preparation, the hearing was over in less than two hours. Now we are awaiting an outcome, which we pray will be positive.

Pending Cases

AL B Family v. Social Security Administration

AZ Loudermilk Family v. Administration for Children, Youth and Families

GA Department of Family and Children’s Services v. P Family

IA Winkelman v. Department of Veterans Affairs

KS T Family v. Social Security Administration

MA Amherst Public Schools v. S Family

MA Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. R.P.

ME F v. Braxton Family

MS C Family v. Department of Veterans Affairs

PA General McLane School District v. W

VA I Family v. Social Security Administration

WA H Family v. Social Security Administration

WA M Family v. Department of Social Services

Pennsylvania RFPA Cases

Combs v. Homer-Center School District
Hankin v. Bristol Township School District
Nelson v. Titusville Area School District
Newborn v. Franklin Regional School District
Penn-Trafford School District v. B Family
Prevish v. Norwin School District
Weber v. Dubois Area School District

About the author

Nicholas Bolzman is a litigation assistant at HSLDA.