Originally Sent: 3/7/2014
|From the HSLDA e-lert service|
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Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.
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Dear HSLDA Members and Friends in Buckingham County
Please keep trying to reach your school board representative! Remember that husbands and wives are separate voters. I recommend that husbands and wives call separately.
Read the “Update” below and feel free to use this information when speaking to board members.
Today the Buckingham Public Schools superintendent sought to defend his attempt to question children about their faith. He wrote that he is simply “lawfully and properly helping to collect that data for use by the school board.” Should we believe him when he says his efforts are “lawful?”
Let’s start by looking at the law—and you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand this! Virginia statute 22.1-254 gives school boards authority to administer four exemptions.
Exemption D.1 says: “a school board may excuse … on the recommendation of the principal and … superintendent .… any pupil …” who would not benefit from education. Great. Principals and superintendents have a lawful role in implementing Exemption D.1
Exemption D.2 says: “a school board may excuse … on the recommendation of the … court … the pupil …” who would not benefit from education. No problem. Judges also have a lawful role in implementing Exemption D.2.
Exemption B.2 says: “a school board shall excuse … on the recommendation of the … court … the pupil …” who has safety concerns. Fine. Judges also have a lawful role in implementing Exemption B.2
Exemption B.1 (the religious exemption) says: “a school board shall excuse … any pupil …,” but there is NO mention of a judge, superintendent or principal! Virginia law gives Snead no role in administering the religious exemption.
Now let’s pause and ask why the legislature intentionally gave no role to superintendents on religious exemption issues.
(1) The school board is elected. Board members who don’t reflect the will of the people can be removed at the next election. Superintendents are not elected. On an issue as important as freedom of religion, the legislature wanted to be sure the will of the people would prevail.
(2) The salary of superintendents depends partly on how many students are in the system. It is against a superintendent’s financial interest to excuse children from school. Something as important as freedom of religion should not rest in the hands of someone who might be afraid his salary will go down if he supports religious exemptions.
(3) Superintendents are often hired from outside the area. He can’t be expected to understand the culture, aspirations, and sensibilities of the folks in a district if he just arrived from 200 miles away. The legislature wisely made sure that a newcomer would not have a role in the important issue of local religious freedom.
(4) When a school board hires a superintendent, they are not looking for someone who has a religious background. They are looking for someone with training or education to show he can administer a complicated bureaucracy. It is outside the area of expertise of superintendents to judge religious issues.
(5) A superintendent’s faith may be unknown when he is hired. But his faith may turn out to be quite different from that of most people in the district. If he is involved in religious exemptions, he may let his own personal beliefs impact his decisions without the voters having any say in the matter.
If Snead’s only involvement were forwarding letters containing religious exemption requests to the board, no one would object.
But getting a religious exemption hinges on whether a person’s faith is sincere. The sincerity of live testimony can only be judged by being present when the person speaks—by evaluating the person’s demeanor.
If your sincerity is going to be judged, you have a right for only the full school board to do it. The school board cannot delegate this crucial job to Snead or even to an individual board member.
Let us be united in respectfully requesting that the school board instruct Snead back out of this issue and let the board fulfill its lawful role. This is a non-negotiable.
Thank you for standing with us for freedom!
HSLDA Senior Counsel
P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>
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