The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXV
No. 1
Cover
January/February
2009

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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

A New Regulation Births a New Organization

In March of 2008, hundreds of District of Columbia homeschoolers joined Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka and Staff Attorneys Michael Donnelly and Scott Woodruff at a state board of education (SBOE) meeting. Their purpose: to send D.C. policy makers a clear signal that homeschoolers were ready to take action in resisting a regulation proposed by new State Superintendent of Education Deborah Gist that would have been the most restrictive and intrusive homeschool law in the nation.

After hearing over two hours of testimony, the SBOE said they got the message that D.C. homeschoolers were not happy about the proposed regulations. They instructed Superintendent Gist to include homeschoolers along with members of the office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) on a new task force to create a better regulation.

The task force met a number of times, and many homeschoolers worked hard on the committee and through grassroots calls to SBOE members to improve the proposed regulation. In addition, HSLDA’s director of federal relations, Will Estrada, spearheaded an effort to get a letter in support of homeschoolers signed by nearly a dozen members of Congress’s D.C. oversight committee. And, after nearly 15 years of quiescence, local homeschoolers also formed a new district-wide organization, the DC Home Educators Association (DCHEA), founded by Ethan Reedy with a number of other homeschooling parents.

This new homeschool organization was instrumental in ensuring that homeschoolers in the district were represented on the taskforce, at state board meetings, and in future government plans. D.C. homeschoolers are encouraged to join DCHEA at www.dchea.org. It is now more important than ever that homeschoolers in the district come together and stand firm for freedom from governmental intrusion into homeschooling families.

The work of the task force generated great interest in the local media, resulting in articles in the Washington Times and appearances by Donnelly and Reedy on the Kojo Nnamdi show, a public radio talk show. Although HSLDA and homeschoolers across the district were opposed to passing a new regulation, the compromise rules, passed in July 2008, were far improved from those originally proposed in March. Key changes included the following requirements: an annual notice of intent must be filed by the child’s parent or guardian. The parent or guardian providing instruction must have a high school diploma (although the rule allows this provision to be waived upon request), and homeschoolers must maintain a portfolio available for inspection upon request at most twice per year by the OSSE.

Homeschoolers may go to www.hslda.org/dc to read an analysis and learn more about these efforts to preserve homeschool freedom and minimize government intrusion.

While the new regulations are more restrictive than those previously in effect, the transition appears to have been smooth, and the OSSE has been working positively with district homeschoolers.

Nevertheless, there continue to be threats to homeschoolers. Recently a supervisor from the district’s Department of Child and Family Services told Donnelly that they were going to be looking very carefully at homeschoolers in the district.

We encourage you to invite your neighbors and friends to join HSLDA for all of the benefits, services, and peace of mind our membership brings. Thank you for standing with us in support of freedom in the district!

— by Michael P. Donnelly