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8/27/2004 2:54:05 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Florida--Homeschoolers Object to Misuse of Portfolio Reviews

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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August 27, 2004


Florida--Homeschoolers Object to Misuse of Portfolio Reviews


Dear HSLDA members and friends:

For many years, the Florida homeschool law has allowed school
districts to inspect the portfolios of homeschoolers with only fifteen
days written notice. Unfortunately, too many school districts have
misapplied this law by randomly harassing innocent homeschool
families.

We believe that homeschoolers, who have convictions against showing
their portfolio to the school district, have a means to object.

First of all, homeschoolers who have religious reasons for
homeschooling could evoke the Florida Religious Freedom Act (Florida
Statutes Section 761.01 et seq) that HSLDA helped pass a few years
ago. This act provides religious homeschoolers with a legal means to
say "no" to the portfolio review; if the portfolio review is offensive
to the religious beliefs of the homeschooler. By evoking the Religious
Freedom Act the homeschooler can force the state to prove that the
fulfillment of a portfolio review "furthers a compelling state
interest" and is the "least restrictive means" of fulfilling its
interest that children be educated.

In Pennsylvania we are using that state's Religious Freedom Act to
successfully fight against a very cumbersome and regulatory homeschool
law that has substantially burdened families for years.

Secondly, it was never the intent of the legislature that portfolio
reviews be used as a tool for harassment. We believe that portfolio
reviews should only be used if there is evidence that a family is not
in compliance with the law. It should not be a common practice
performed on a random basis.

For example, in Miami-Dade County, a letter was sent out earlier this
summer telling all families in the county that this was their
fifteen-day written notice. They were then told that a representative
of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, who happened to be a school
social worker, may contact them to review their educational portfolio
any time after that. We have received some reports from families that
did not have a pleasant experience when the social worker came to
their door demanding to review the portfolio.

Other counties, such as Gulf County, are also performing random
portfolio reviews of innocent families.

Thirdly, homeschoolers who object to a portfolio review can evoke the
Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees the right of parental liberty.
The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted this liberty to include the
fundamental right "of parents to direct the education and upbringing
of their children." A demand by the school district to review
portfolio records could be found to violate these parental rights.

Therefore, HSLDA is willing to help any families in Florida who
object, on parental rights and/or religious grounds, to the random
demand for a portfolio review.

Please contact HSLDA as soon as possible if you have a conviction that
leads you to reject participation in portfolio reviews. We will write
a letter to the school district explaining that the portfolio reviews
violate your Fourteenth Amendment parental rights, the legislature's
intent, and your rights under the Florida Religious Freedom Act.

It is also time for Florida homeschoolers to think about expanding
their freedom by changing the law. Florida is one of the few states
that give school officials the right to review portfolio records.
Other states, by law, only allow the portfolio to be reviewed "if the
superintendent has probable cause that the family is not in
compliance." Adding this clause to the Florida statute would prohibit
99.9% of portfolio reviews, saving families' time and preventing
reviews from being used as an instrument of harassment.

Please let us know if you find yourself in this situation. We are
ready to assist.


Sincerely,

Christopher J. Klicka
HSLDA Senior Counsel



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