|a division of Home School Legal Defense Association||March 2001|
The Military Home School Children Equal Access Act of 2001 (H.R. 830)
Dozens of Home School Legal Defense Association members stationed at United States military overseas bases have petitioned HSLDA for help when Department of Defense schools slam the door on what is often the only option for extracurricular activities. In some countries, like Turkey and Germany, it is nearly impossible for parents to find a place for their child to participate in sports, band, or other extracurricular group activities except at DOD schools. However, current DOD policy discriminates against these families.
At the urging of HSLDA in 1999, Congress issued a directive in the report language of the Defense Appropriations bill to the Department of Defense to create an equal access policy for U.S. military families who teach their children at home. Prior to this directive, home schooled students were prohibited from accessing auxiliary services from DOD schools.
The directive stated: "[The DOD] policy . . . should specify that home schooled students may be supported with library services, music, sports, single classes, and other programs without having to actually enroll in Department of Defense Overseas Schools."
This congressional directive clearly intended to give military home schoolers the freedom and right to participate in DOD schools, classes and extra curricular activity without the standard enrollment requirements.
An Ongoing Problem
Following this congressional directive, then Department of Defense Education Activity Director Ray Tolleson issued a policy memorandum to clarify that home schoolers did indeed have the right to participate in auxiliary services. However, the memorandum included one phrase that ran contrary to the intent of Congress. It stipulated that "consistent with existing regulations and policy," the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) should provide dependents who are home schooled with auxiliary services. In effect, this phrase had the effect of maintaining the status quo instead of implementing the new policy.
Director Tolleson's memorandum is inconsistent with the directive and intent of Congress, thus denying many home school students auxiliary services available to other military dependents.
DOD school auxiliary services are a benefit provided to military personnel for serving their country. Congress should not tolerate discriminating against or denying one soldier group services because of their educational choice.
Two examples of home school discrimination are cited below:
- An HSLDA member stationed on Terceira Island, Azores contacted the her DoDDS school asked to borrow some sheet music, and inquired about enrolling her two children in art and music class. She was denied and told that her child must be enrolled for at least a half-day. The school also said that HSLDA's interpretation of the intent of Congress concerning equal access was wrong.
- Another member stationed in Japan inquired about equal access to his station's school and received the following letter from the DoDDS in Europe:
The written statement recently issued by the National Center for Home Education stating that DoDDS must allow home schooled students to participate in extra-curricular activities, specifically, inter-scholastic athletics, without regard to the enrollment status of the student is incorrect. In response to direction from the Department of Defense and Congress, DoDDS issued a policy memorandum (attached) which states in paragraph three that home schooled students may participate in extra-curricular activities such as sports programs consistent with existing policy. DoDDS policy continues to define eligibility for participation in athletic programs as enrollment on at least a half-time basis. There have been no changes to our regulations regarding the requirement for part-time enrollment and there are no changes regarding this requirement planned for the future.
Education Program Manager, DoDDS-Europe
If this letter is correct, and no change to the regulation requiring part-time enrollment has occurred, then why did Congress go to the trouble of issuing a policy directive to the DOD? The language is Congress's directive is clear, Congress did intend to change current regulation, but their message has unfortunately been misinterpreted.
The Final Fix
Congressman John Hostettler has introduced a bill that will remedy this discrimination and uphold the intent of Congress. The Military Home School Children Equal Access Act of 2001-H.R. 830-introduced March 1, will "amend the Defense Dependents' Education Act of 1978 to allow home school students who are eligible for enrollment in a school of the overseas defense dependents education system to use auxiliary services of such schools."
This bill will codify the intent of Congress and give military dependents the access to DOD services that they have been denied.
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