Contacts Resolved in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is currently one of the few states whose laws require prior approval of the local school district for homeschooling. Basically, superintendents are free to create their own homeschooling guidelines. The state supreme court has set some guidelines in Care and Protection of Charles, 504 N.E. 2d 592 (Mass. 1987), but these have been largely ignored in practice. Several HSLDA families in Massachusetts have recently encountered problems with their school districts, but favorable resolutions have been achieved in many of these situations. Contacts in Springfield, Milford, Huntington, Andover, and Ashburnham were all easily resolved through letters and negotiations on the part of the family and HSLDA’s Chris Klicka. In three other districts, victory was also achieved, but involved more work and negotiation.
In Hanover, the Johnson family was threatened with truancy charges since they had not yet received approval from their school board. The family was told to enroll their child back in the public school until the approval was granted. The family refused and kept homeschooling, although the district continued to threaten them with truancy charges. HSLDA’s Chris Klicka, through many phone calls, was able to stall the charges successfully, however, until a few weeks later when the family’s approval was granted by the school board.
In Southern Berkshire, the Lanoue family’s superintendent wanted them to agree last fall to home visits and psychological testing for their children. When the family refused, they were turned over to the department of social services for investigation, but that investigation was unfounded. In December, the family was charged with failure to enroll their child in an approved school program. Chris Klicka tried to work out a settlement between the family and the superintendent, but the superintendent refused to accept it. His primary objection was that the family refused to ask for his approval, even though the family had made it clear that to seek approval would violate their religious beliefs. The superintendent admitted that the Lanoues’ program was completely acceptable in educational terms, but that he would not recommend their approval to the school board until the family asked for his approval.
The matter went to a preliminary hearing, and local attorney Paul Dillon of Falmouth represented the family. The judge seemed basically favorable to the family’s position, but the superintendent refused to give in, and a second hearing date was set. At this second hearing, the judge was over an hour late. While the family and the superintendent waited for him to arrive, they were able to reach their own agreement, and the charges were dropped. In the end, the Lanoues did not have to seek approval, and agreed to submit a portfolio twice a year to the school district.
In Boston, a third HSLDA family, the Baldners, also had a conflict with their district which was eventually resolved through negotiation. This Boston family was first asked by their district to allow home visits and to submit progress reports. The family did not want to do this, and through letters from Chris Klicka, the district was convinced to back down on its demands.
Currently in Massachusetts, several families are still in the midst of negotiations with their districts. In Leominster, a family was handed a policy that would require them to fulfill the 180-day school year and the correct daily hours requirement. In addition, the school demands the option to test the children with standardized tests “or other instruments” used by the school, and to conduct home visits. Chris Klicka is working with this family and others throughout the state to try to reach agreements that will not violate the families’ rights or beliefs.