Districts Challenge Church School Option
In Alabama, home schoolers have basically two choices: they must either be state certified or connected with a ministry of a local church. Every year, some counties challenge home schoolers’ rights to operate as a local church ministry claiming, that their only option is certification. Unfortunately, the State Superintendent is supportive of this interpretation of the law. As a result, last year home schoolers attempted to introduce a bill in the state legislature which would have specifically protected home schoolers. The bill was defeated in committee.
Since much attention was drawn to home schools last year, everyone braced themselves for a possible backlash from the state at the beginning of the 1988-89 school year. By God’s grace, most counties left home schoolers alone as long as they were affiliated with a local church or church school.
During the summer, the HSLDA legal staff received many calls from families desiring to find an affordable church school to satellite under or requesting information on how they could establish their own church school. HSLDA recommended that families contact their local churches to find out if they would be willing to sponsor their home school as a church school operated as a ministry of the church.
Two counties hit home schoolers hard this year. In Etowah County, the Director of Student Services contacted two HSLDA families because someone had reported that their children were not in school. The families explained their connection with local church schools. Later that day, a probation officer told the families that they were illegal and explained that charges would be filed against them that same day. At this point, HSLDA was contacted and attorney Chris Klicka immediately called the Director of Student Services who stated that since the children were not actually in attendance at a church school, they were illegal. He said that they probation officer was already meeting with one of the local judges to press charges.
Attorney Klicka then called the judge, who also disagreed entirely with home schooling and felt it was illegal. He did not care whether other counties recognized home schools which operated as ministries of local churches, because he would not. He voiced concerns that these families would contribute to the already high illiteracy rate in the state and wondered, “What asylum did these families escape from?” When Klicka confronted him with the high illiteracy rate in the public schools, the judge admitted that, “Public schools aren't what they used to be.”
Finally, Klicka spoke with the assistant superintendent and convinced him to stop all proceedings immediately and to contact the other counties in the state to find out how they interpreted the law and applied it to home schooling. The families have not been contacted since then.
Lawrence County has also been difficult. An HSLDA family was contacted by the school district and told that home schools are not legal unless operated by a certified tutor. Attorney Klicka phoned the superintendent and wrote him a letter defending the legality of the home school. The families have received no further word.
Several other counties have questioned home schoolers but have declined to pursue any legal action. In many senses, Alabama is a “powder keg” with the potential to explode at any moment. Currently, however, the Lord continues to protect home schoolers in Alabama.