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October 21, 2013

Nebraska Homeschoolers Speak out against Rule Changes

Staff Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole helps defend homeschool freedom in Nebraska. He is married and the father of three small children.

In direct response to HSLDA’s May 2013 victory in the Nebraska Supreme Court, the Nebraska Department of Education has proposed significant changes to the homeschooling regulations, which would significantly curtail homeschool freedom.

The most noteworthy of these changes require students to remain in accredited public or private schools for up to 30 days, until they receive an official “acknowledgement” letter from the state, before parents can begin teaching them at home. Nebraska’s homeschool statute specifically says that parents can begin homeschooling in compliance with the law as soon as their paperwork is received by the DOE.

On October 15, 2013, the Department of Education held a video conference hearing reviewing the proposed rule changes in Lincoln, Scottsbluff, and Grand Island. Approximately 250 homeschoolers attended the meetings to voice their opposition to these proposed changes, which smack of governmental “approval” for homeschooling. Turnout was so strong that the hearing rooms became “standing-room only,” and many families had to settle for a spot in the hallways outside.

Testimony

Dave Lostroh, legislative liaison for the Nebraska Christian Home Educators Association (NCHEA), and HSLDA Staff Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole, both testified in opposition to the proposed changes.

“At least twenty homeschooling parents and students gave oral testimony in opposition to the changes,” attorney Kamakawiwoole said. “Many others had originally intended to do so, but decided to not give oral remarks given the volume of the turnout.”

State Senator Beau McCoy and a representative of Saint Gregory the Great Seminary also submitted testimony opposing the proposed changes.

Many families who attended the hearing also submitted written testimony, and others across the state who could not attend took the time to fax and email testimony to the department over the weekend. All of this testimony, along with a recording of the hearing, will be made available to the department as it weighs making these changes.

Thanks to the strong response, the Department of Education understands that Nebraska homeschoolers consider the proposed rule changes to be significant. While the DOE had originally planned to make a decision in early November, the Department announced after the hearing that it does not have a set timeline for making a decision.

Thacker Decision Background

On May 31, 2013, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled unanimously in State v. Thacker that a family who had waited to begin homeschooling their five children until after the public schools were in session was not guilty of truancy. The decision not only put to rest the dangerous assertion that children are “presumed” to be enrolled in public schools, but also reinforced the fact that parents do not need “approval” from the Department of Education before they can begin homeschooling.

For more information you can read HSLDA’s detailed analysis of the proposed rule changes on our recent e-lert, or check out the proposed changes to Rule 12 or Rule 13 for yourself.

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