Ohio Cases Increase
In Ohio, the local or county superintendent may excuse a child if he is being “instructed at home by a person qualified to teach the branches on which instruction is required.” The state board of education altered their homeschool policy for the 1985–86 school year requiring all homeschools to be approved by the local or county superintendent. Prior to this school year, homeschoolers connected to a local Christian or private school could be “approved” by the private school.
This approval process, however, has caused countless conflicts in the state because Ohio’s compulsory attendance law is vague and provides no guidelines for the state superintendents to follow. As a result, each of Ohio’s 615 superintendents establishes his own personal requirements with which homeschoolers in his district must comply. This discretionary power of the superintendent tends to be exercised arbitrarily by the superintendent, often to the detriment of homeschoolers’ constitutional rights.
For example, a superintendent in Cuyahoga County refused to allow the Svoboda family to teach their children at home because they were not certified by the state (Ohio’s compulsory attendance statute does not even require certification). The superintendent, in addition, would not allow the family an opportunity for a hearing nor would he consider the fact that both parents had college degrees. HSLDA President Michael Farris will be arguing the Svobodas’ case before the Eighth District Court of Appeals this summer (Svoboda v. Andrisek, Nos. 51234 and 51385, Eighth District Court of Appeals, Ohio).
Recently, in Ada, Ohio, two HSLDA homeschool families were denied their right to homeschool without a hearing or any recognition of their right to a religious exemption pursuant to Attorney General Opinion 79-056. HSLDA Executive Director Chris Klicka immediately called the superintendent and assured him of the families’ sincerity in the religious convictions and their excellent academic program. Klicka asked if the superintendent would grant them a hearing and officially withdraw his denial (under Ohio law, a superintendent is a “quasi-judge” and his denial of a homeschool program must be appealed to the local juvenile court within 10 days). The superintendent agreed, thus avoiding a certain court battle.
Attorney Melnick of Youngstown is continuing to prepare his case for the Cline family, a member of HSLDA, in Jefferson County. He has already represented the family in a court-ordered hearing before the superintendent and has established a strong case with affidavits from several homeschool experts including Dr. Raymond Moore. The case, however, has been postponed until the end of the summer. Meanwhile, the Clines continue to successfully homeschool their children.
Earlier this month, an HSLDA family, the Carrikers in Cleveland, met with a school district officer who found their academic program to be more than adequate and who determined that their religious convictions were sincere. Nonetheless, the superintendent, without ever personally meeting the family, sent them a letter denying them their right to homeschool because they were not certified and disregarding their right to a religious exemption. As a result, HSLDA hired attorney Bob Lynch and subsequently appealed the superintendent’s decision to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas within the 10-day limit.
On the other hand, three HSLDA families in Logan County were allowed to teach their children at home based on their religious convictions. None of the families had any further education than high school diplomas. Freedom to teach your own children in Ohio definitely varies from school district to school district.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court still has not ruled whether they will hear the Ohio v. Schmidt case because the prosecutor did not submit her brief to the court. The prosecutor was almost a month and a half late. The supreme court clerk recently informed HSLDA that he has sent the case to the supreme court anyway with only HSLDA&squo;s timely filed brief arguing in favor of the Schmidt family. Whether the Ohio Supreme Court will hear the Schmidt case will be announced in a few weeks.
In conclusion, it is clear that a vague compulsory attendance law, such as Ohio’s, which gives unlimited discretionary power to each school district, will result in arbitrary denial of the constitutional right to homeschool. States like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, Maine, and approximately one dozen other states, all have statutes similar to Ohio’s, which require the homeschoolers to be annually “approved” by the state board of education or by the local school districts. Depending on who is in power on the state and local level of the public school system, the right to homeschool is either heavily restricted or favorably encouraged.
Homeschoolers must band together in order to pray and work towards educating legislators to amend their present laws to specifically limit the state school administrations’ arbitrary powers and clearly preserve the families’ constitutional and God-given right to homeschool.