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September 20, 2007

School District Tells Homeschooler She’s Learning Too Fast

The Gilbert (name changed to protect privacy) family’s daughter, due to extenuating circumstances, was behind one grade in school. The following year, to correct this, the daughter worked doubly hard and completed two grades in one year!

At the end of the year, Mrs. Gilbert submitted two assessments so that her daughter could advance to the correct grade and be back on track with her peers. The evaluation was exactly as it should be, and the family was encouraged by their daughter’s determination to make up for lost time.

Unfortunately, the Gilberts were distressed when they received a response from the Escambia County School District to the evaluations sent. The letter stated that the district was unable to accept two year-end evaluations for a homeschool student in one year, and that they would not promote the student to the 10th grade, regardless of the fact that the 10th grade evaluation was already submitted.

The letter included their school “policy” to show that two evaluations could not be accepted in one year for the same student as per the Escambia County Pupil Progression Plan.

The Gilberts called the Home School Legal Defense Association to find out if there was any way around this. Fortunately, there is. Escambia County has no right to make this requirement, as nowhere in the statute does it prohibit a student to submit two evaluations for the year. HSLDA Attorney Chris Klicka sent the district a response letter making it clear that officials had crossed over their bounds by making this requirement.

The Escambia County Attorney sent a letter in response. She again made it clear that the Gilberts could only submit one evaluation to the school district in order to fulfill the mandated requirement, and that the school district would not acknowledge the fact that the Gilbert daughter had completed both 8th and 9th grades during the 2006-2007 year.

In Klicka’s response letter he explained that one of the advantages of homeschooling, as commonly practiced throughout the 50 states, is for homeschool students to be able to proceed at their own pace. He explained that it was normal for students who are gifted to progress more than one grade level during one academic year. Furthermore, the letter discussed how Florida statutes only give school districts limited authority regarding the evaluations of homeschoolers. The district only has the authority to “review and accept the results of the annual education evaluation of the student in a home education program. If the student does not demonstrate educational progress at a level commensurate with his or her ability, the district school superintendent shall notify the parent, in writing, that such progress has not been achieved.” (According to Florida Statutes Annotated 1002.41(2)).

Klicka’s letter made it very clear that the Gilbert’s daughter was going to progress into the next grade, regardless of what the district said, and that the Escambia County Public Schools could do nothing about that.

The Gilberts have not been hassled since.