New Regulations Cause Some Confusion in New York
Problems continue to plague home schoolers in New York, despite the new regulations which have been in effect since August 1, 1988. Most of the problems have stemmed from the IHIP ( Individualized Home Instruction Plan) forms promulgated by the Department of Education did not seek input from either home schoolers or school districts in drawling up these forms, as they has promised, and as a result, neither side is particularly satisfied with them. The IHIP forms were sent to every school district in the state, but it was not made clear whether the forms were merely intended as models, after which districts were to pattern their own forms, or as the official version, to be used as is. In addition, the forms themselves have caused confusion due to their lack of clarity.
One from in particular was designed to be a combination curriculum description and quarterly report form. The form was apparently intended to reduce paperwork and simplify the process, but in practice, parents using this form must use a separate page for each subject, and send in copies of these pages every quarter. This process over a year’s time for several children, could amount to a hundred pages or more of reports building up in the school district’s files for a given family. This form has also caused a great deal of friction regarding how much detail families must give regarding their quarterly lesson plans. Some districts have insisted on detailed explanations of what topics and objectives are planned while the regulations seem to indicate that a simple list of the curriculum materials or textbooks is sufficient.
In addition, some school districts are still asserting a right to review curriculum for “substantial equivalency,” meaning that they want to compare a family’s content in a given area with the district’s plan for the area. One school district told a few HSLDA member families tat their forms were not in compliance because the school district's curriculum called for second graders to study “communities,” and the home schoolers’ second grade curricula did not. The regulations make clear that districts do not have a right to make such determinations, but only to ascertain that home schoolers are covering the required subject areas.
In an effort to clarify these areas of dispute and confusion, HSLDA’s Mike Farris traveled to Albany on October 14, 1988, to meet with officials at the stare Department of Education and attempt to resolve these problems. The result of the meeting will be a memo put out by the Department of Education explaining their interpretation of there areas in question. In addition, those at the meeting discussed the IHIP forms, and the possibility of designing new ones for use in the future.
Blackwelder Status Report
The Blackwelder federal case has been appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, on the grounds that Judge Mundon’s decision in the district court should be vacated mooted, since the home schooling regulations have resolved all of the areas of the law challenged by the lawsuit. Judge Munsone refused to grant the families’ motion to reconsider and vacate his decision, so relief must now be sought from the higher court. The appeal is only at the briefing stage now, and oral argument has been requested and should be scheduled sometime last fall or during winter.
Teaching Children to Answer The Phone
It is important that any of your children who are answering the phone know how to handle certain situations. In any state, it is important that children who answer the phone are able to take a message and to know what information they may give to callers. But in addition, some special precautions need to be taken in some situations. In states where home schooling laws are difficult ( for example, North Dakota or Michigan), or in any state if your family is underground, a phone call from a school district employee or similar official can often be the beginning of serious problems if not handle correctly.
In general, if both parents are ever not at home during the school day, you should instruct your children not to give this information out to callers. Children should instruct your Children should simply respond that their parents are not available or cannot come to the phone right now. Children should also be prepared to write down an accurate message and phone number. Therefore, you will need to determine which of your children are capable of handling phone calls in this manner, and instruct them accordingly. This is true even if you have been approved by your district or are otherwise legally operating.
In addition, if your family is underground (i.e. your school district does not know that you are home schooling, or if you are involved in some type of dispute with your district), especially in difficult states, it would be best if children did not answer the phone during the school day (while the public schools are in session –8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.).
In no case should children give information about the location of there parents to strangers. On several occasions, HSLDA staff have called member families, and had children answer the phone. These children have proceeded to give out information, explaining that their parents were not at home or that their mothers were at work, without even asking who was calling and ascertaining that the caller should be given such information. If the caller had been a truant officer instead of an HSLDA attorney, the results could have been disastrous.
This may sounds extreme , but in a state such as North Dakota, for example, all a school district needs to know in order to press charges of truancy, is that a child of compulsory school age in the district is not attending an approved school. In such a situation, if a phone call to a home during the school day is answered by a child, who proceeds to give any information (even answering yes to, "Is your name John Smith?" or giving your age or details about their home school), it could be the beginning of serious problems. This is certainly not true in every instance in every state, but families who are underground always need to exercise caution.
Learning phone etiquette is important, and we encourage families to train their children to be able to answer the phone responsibly. However, it must be kept in mind that the continued peaceful operation of your home school depends on your family’s preparation for the unexpected contacts that often start with a phone call.