States in brief . . .
Since there is no homeschool statute in Kansas, homeschoolers register as private schools. Most superintendents can be convinced that homeschools are legitimate private schools. However, those who are not persuaded by HSLDA’s argument see it as their obligation to refer homeschoolers to the Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) for investigation. Upon investigation of the homeschool, often the SRS believes it is its responsibility to hand the cases over to the local prosecutor’s office. HSLDA can intervene at all of these points and attempt to persuade the investigator (superintendent, SRS official, or prosecutor) that the homeschool is a legally operating private school in the state of Kansas. Usually one of the three is reasonable, and court can be avoided.
Three HSLDA member families in Wichita and the surrounding suburbs have recently been visited by SRS officials, who have asked the families numerous questions concerning their homeschool programs. In one instance the SRS’ requests for information and cooperation were unreasonable and totally unrealistic. None of the three families have been turned over to the local prosecutor as yet, and HSLDA is negotiating to avoid further escalation of these situations.
A family in Norton, however, has been asked to meet with the local prosecutor to discuss the family’s homeschool. HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka spoke with the prosecutor, setting the boundaries for the meeting. He has also counseled the family in preparation for the discussions. After meeting with a family and finding no educational neglect, often local prosecutors decide that it is unnecessary to pursue the investigation.
Meanwhile, Kent Vincent, a local attorney retained by HSLDA to defend the Willms case in Topeka, has reached an agreement with the local prosecutor to drop charges against the family because the family enrolled in a “satellite school.” The satellite school is made up of an administrative board of homeschool parents who keep records and minimally supervise several homeschools enrolled in the program. This accountability convinced the prosecutor to dismiss the case against the Willms family.
As discussed in the last issue of the Home School Court Report, the federal judge in Steyne, et al. v. heyward, et al. (No. 3:86-2629-0, U.S. District Court of South Carolina, Columbia Division) extended his order staying prosecutions of HSLDA members in South Carolina to the end of the 1988 legislative season. This court order effectively prohibits any action against HSLDA members in South Carolina. The judge issued the order because all parties in the federal suit agree to wait until the end of the legislative season before resuming the suit. This agreement was reached because during the last session of the South Carolina legislature, the senate passed a homeschool bill supported by most homeschoolers in the state, but the house did not have sufficient time to take up the measure. If the legislature passes a homeschool law this session, there will be no need to continue with the federal lawsuit.
The draft regulations mentioned in the last issue of the Home School Court Report are now before the state attorney general for consideration. Mike Farris and homeschool leaders from Hawaii drafted new regulations some time ago, and the state board of education held hearings on the proposed changes.
Currently, Hawaii is an approval state and has cumbersome requirements homeschooling families must follow. If adopted, the new regulations would dramatically improve the position of homeschoolers in Hawaii.
Legislation is being threatened that would remove the church satellite school provision in Tennessee. If pushed forward, such legislation could leave families, particularly those without bachelor's degrees, more open to prosecution.
Also, litigation is being threatened against homeschooling parents not possessing bachelor’s degrees who are teaching high school children. Currently the Tennessee law reads that a parent/teacher must have four more years of education than the most advanced of the children he or she teaches. However, the state education commissioner has the authority to waive this stipulation on a case-by-case basis. The current commissioner has now stated that he will never choose to waive this requirement for any homeschooler.
Although Maine continues to be a difficult state, there is good news for four Maine families, whose homeschool programs have been approved.
At the beginning of the 1987 school year, the Griffin family, in Presque Isle, was “disapproved” by the local school board. The reasons given for the denial had nothing to do with the family’s curriculum or qualifications (the father is a certified teacher in Maine), but rather, the family was denied “approval” for “philosophical” reasons. HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka composed a short brief on the family’s behalf and phoned the state commissioner of education’s office to discuss the Griffins’ appeal. HSLDA has recently been advised that the commissioner has reversed the denial at the local level.
Another HSLDA family, the Uffelmans from East Machias, were disapproved by the state commissioner of education. However, through successful negotiating, a settlement was reached by HSLDA.
Also through negotiations, two other families in the state have recently been approved at the local level.
Some Maryland counties have recently begun reviewing homeschoolers portfolios and observing instruction pursuant to the provisions in the new homeschool regulations. Certain school districts have indicated that they will be coming to the homes for the purpose of accomplishing the above. However, the regulations do not provide for home visits; therefore, if Maryland homeschoolers do not desire to have this review in the home, they should be prepared to provide a neutral location or go tot eh local public school offices.
Should any school official indicate that he or she does not believe a member family is providing “regular and thorough instruction,” that superintendent or his designate must notify the parents in writing, describing the perceived deficiencies. Members should notify HSLDA immediately upon receipt of such a letter. Once such a letter is received, the parent has 30 days to respond indicating that the problem is resolved or is being resolved.