Approval Process Running Smoothly
Thanks to the professionalism of HSLDA members in Ohio, and the reasonableness of most of the superintendents HSLDA attorneys have dealt with thus far, no member family has been denied an excuse from public school attendance for home schooling this school year. By this time last year, HSLDA attorney J. Michael Smith had filed five appeals in various courts of common pleas because of denial of home school programs.
Although there are about as many home school policies as there are country superintendents, more and more superintendent are providing home schooler with an “application” or other such form to be filled out and returned to the superintendent. Many HSLDA members have objected to language in the forms such as “request for approval,” “request for exemption,” ect. The HSLDA legal staff believes this application emphases has been promoted by the language in the Schmidt case indicating that home schooler had provided an “application” or “proposal” to the superintendent for religious exemption.
Some HSLDA members have altered the form to strike out objectionable language. These altered forms have met with differing responses. Most superintendents have received the forms without comment and proceeded as if the forms had not been altered. A few have insisted that the form not be altered. In case filed in the United States District Court of the Northern District of Ohio, the Magistrate ruled that a religiously motivated home schooler could strike out material that is objectionable and provide a disclaimer in the application or in a separate letter, indicating that the parent is not seeking permission or approval by the submission of the form.
The mere submission of the form will not waive a parents’ rights to raise constitutional arguments, if need be, that they have a God-given right to teach their children at home. In other word, if the superintendent should deny the exemption, HSLDA can still raise all of the constitutional arguments in the Court of Common Pleas pursuant to the appeal of the superintendent’s denial, assuming the original notice of intent and subsequent correspondence contain a clear statement that the home schooler is asserting a constitutional right to home educate. For those who have completed the excuse process successfully, whether they asserted a constitutional right to home educate is irrelevant because they have already been excused. Another issue that has arisen concerns the request for a personal meeting by the superintendent. There is no provision in the law requiring or allowing such a meeting. However, the Ohio courts have ruled that if a superintendent denies the home school program, he/she must provide a hearing and give the home schooler an opportunity to present evidence to support the position of the family that the person providing instruction is qualified to teach the required subjects.
HSLDA’s policy has been to have attorneys attend with the member family only when it appears that there is a strong likelihood that the superintendent is going to deny the request for home education. In this situation, we may employ a stenographer to preserve a record of the proceedings as well.
The ad hoc committee appointed by the board of education to make recommendations regarding regulations and guidlines for superintendents regarding determinations of who is qualified to teach children at home, is still meeting and the home schooling contingent on the committee remains optimistic that a concensus can be reached on suggested regulations which will be palatable to home scholers in Ohio. The committee earnestly solicits your prayers as the Lord leads regarding this most important issue.