Virginia Home Schoolers Make Progress
This year, the HSLDA legal staff has been kept busy in Virginia with numerous skirmishes over aspects of the home school law and frequent school board hearings considering religious exemptions.
Home School Law
Every year, several counties try to dictate testing policy that is not authorized by law. In Craig County, for example, home schoolers were told the time, location, and administrator of the test had to be approved in advance by the superintendent. At least 8 other counties came up with similar testing policies.
In Norfolk, some HSLDA families were told that even though their children scored above average on the Iowa Basic Skills Test, they had used the wrong form of the test and therefore were not in compliance. However, the school district said they would waive the requirement this year. This Norfolk policy is not authorized by law and also contradicts Memo 75, released this March by the State superintendent. On pg. 6 of the Memo it states:
One option under this evaluation provision is to use the appropriate level of a standardized achievement test other than the one approved for use in the public schools. Achievement above the fortieth percentile in reading/language arts and mathematics would provide an acceptable measure.
In every instance, the HSLDA legal staff instructed its members in those districts to ignore the unauthorized policies and merely send in the test scores by August 1. The Virginia law allows anybody to administer any nationally recognized achievement test anywhere at anytime as long as the results demonstrate that a child has attained at least the 40%. All the testing conflicts have been resolved.
Another problem the HSLDA legal staff faced were two families who started home schooling during the middle of the year and, of course, missed the end of August deadline for notifying the school district. Authorities in both Lovettsville and Chesapeake told the families they could not home school and threatened legal action. The HSLDA legal staff immediately contacted the authorities and explained to them about an Attorney General Opinion rendered February 25, 1985 which allows for home schoolers to start home schooling mid-year. Both school districts backed off.
On April 19, 1989, HSLDA's executive director, Chris Klicka, attended a meeting with State Superintendent Jack Davis in order to prevent similar disputes from arising. The meeting was arranged by Will Shaw of the Home Educators Association of Virginia who also attended along with Mary Kay Clark, Secretary of HEAV. The meeting was cordial and Superintendent Davis and his legislative director agreed to several helpful changes in the law proposed by Will Shaw. Klicka discussed the subjects of home schoolers who start mid-year and the many testing disputes. In a letter dated May 1, the superintendent was willing to write a Memo to clear up the mid-year home schooler issue and he said testing disputes “can and will be handled on an individual basis…” when HEAV, HSLDA, or the parents make the problem known in written communication to him. Although the Superintendent did not give in several areas, the over-all results of the meeting were positive.
Watch Out For the New Notice of Intent Form
One other point should be made. This year many of the school districts are using a new Notice of Intent form that has added an additional sentence which states: “I hereby certify that I am the parents…and agree to comply with applicable policies and procedures.” HSLDA believes its members should cross the last half of this statement because you may be waiving your right to object to arbitrary testing or other policies that a school district may create. Another phrase added in the new form is “I am requesting authorization to provide home instruction…” HSLDA members may want to cross this statement out also to protect their religious convictions. Instead of crossing out these items on the new form, HSLDA members may want to use their old forms or merely write a letter in lieu of any forms.
Lynchburg Does Not Like Home Schooling Beyond 8th Grade
In a letter to a home schooler dated June 20, 1989, the Lynchburg City Schools Director of Pupil Personnel declared, “I should like to advise you that this office will not grant approval for home instruction beyond grade 8.” Upon being challenged by the family, the Director backed down somewhat and wrote another letter stating, “the Lynchburg City Schools has serious concerns about the feasibility of home instruction…above the eighth grade” and they will require additional evidence.
Religious Exemption Action
Since the Winter issue of the Home School Court Report, five more HSLDA families were granted religious exemptions. The Headleys in Pittsylvania and the Millers in Rockingham received religious exemptions without a hearing. In Pulaski County, the Hauenschilds were granted a religious exemption after a favorable meeting with their superintendent, a letter and packet from HSLDA's executive director to the school board, and a short hearing. This is the first religious exemption granted in this county.
The two other religious exemptions were granted to HSLDA members in Court. Last year, after lengthy school board hearings, the Jones family of Roanoke County and the Disbrow family of Culpeper were denied religious exemptions. As a result, attorney Chris Klicka appealed their cases to the respective county circuit courts. Due to the recent Attorney General Opinion (summarized in the Winter issue of the Home School Court Report) and the Frazee case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Klicka requested a rehearing before the two school boards and sent them a legal memorandum. (See article on the Frazee case appearing in this issue.) Both boards granted rehearings and ended up reversing the denials. Klicka, as a result, prepared orders for the judges to sign to dismiss the cases.
Three other HSLDA families, the Johnsons and Morgans from Prince William County and the Wades from Mecklenburg, are still in court in spite of Klicka's request for rehearings. In the case of the Wades, a rehearing was granted and after a couple of hours debating the issue with Klicka and the Wades, the Board retired into executive session with their attorney. A while later, they came out and voted unanimously to affirm their previous denial.
In the Morgan and Johnson cases, the opposing counsel made a motion to demurrer and attempted to get the appeals dismissed for the families. He argued that their children are indispensable to the appeal and should have been named as parties, and since they were not, the appeals should be dismissed. Klicka prepared a brief and gave it to the opposing counsel 10 minutes before the hearing on July 7. When the case was called, the opposing counsel decided it would be better to withdraw his motion concerning the indispensable parties. This is an important victory for these families because it keeps their appeals alive so the case can be tried on its merits and it protects the children from being dragged into the suit.
Please pray for the families who are still in court in Virginia.