Across the States
Common-Sense Decision Favors Homeschooling
In today’s society, there is an increasing number of nontraditional and single-parent families that result from death of a spouse, divorce, adoption, or remarriage. Sometimes these families face special challenges to their right to homeschool their children.
In some cases, a former spouse may cause trouble when the other parent decides to homeschool. The issue often turns squarely on who has custody to make educational decisions. But even in cases of shared custody, a parent with primary or physical custody may still be able to homeschool.
In a recent case, Mrs. Leland (name changed to protect privacy), a mother of 12 and Home School Legal Defense Association member, decided she wanted to homeschool her younger children. Her older children had attended public schools, and she was concerned that it had not been the best choice for them. However, she shared legal custody of two of the younger children with their father, and he decided to make homeschooling difficult for her. He called the school and told the superintendent that he did not approve of homeschooling.
Initially, the superintendent decided not to approve the homeschool program. However, after speaking with Home School Legal Defense Association Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly, she changed her mind. Donnelly explained that Massachusetts law does not require a superintendent to inquire into whether the parent submitting the homeschool plan has legal custody of the child. He also suggested to the superintendent that the family court was the more appropriate forum for questions of this nature to be asked and answered, and that, under Massachusetts law, she was required to simply approve or disapprove the plan, not to enter into any examination of the custody issues involved.
In a letter to Mrs. Leland, the superintendent reasoned that, since she could not satisfy both parties in this case, she was going to approve the plan that Mrs. Leland had submitted and allow the parties to take the matter further to the family court, if necessary.
In most cases, HSLDA is not able to provide advice to members involved in a custody dispute, because of ethical considerations involving conflict of interest. However, in some cases, when one of the parties has never been a member and the issue is strictly limited to homeschooling, HSLDA may be able to offer encouragement, suggestions, and limited assistance.
— by Michael P. Donnelly