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New Jersey

January 22, 2007
School Demands Proof of Parent ‘Competence’

When the Guidance and Testing department of Camden public schools sent a letter to homeschool mom Olga Bonett demanding that she prove her “competence” to teach her own children, she immediately asked Home School Legal Defense Association for help.

The letter also demanded that she provide a list of courses and content to be taught, the books and materials to be used, and their hourly and daily schedule. The letter said this information must be submitted annually “in order for the Home School process to be continued for your child.” The letter was issued after Mrs. Bonett decided to send a notice (not required under law) that she was homeschooling.

Under New Jersey law, the family was not obligated to supply any of the information that was demanded. Prior to 2000, there was considerable confusion—even among government officials—as to what was required because former Commissioner of Education Klagholtz had issued “guidelines” that attempted to impose many duties on families with no lawful basis whatsoever.

The subsequent commissioner of education, after consultation with officials and homeschool leaders, published a set of “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) about homeschooling that was remarkably consistent with state statutory and case law. As a result, the former endemic confusion and conflict melted away. Since that time, when officials overstep their boundaries, the FAQs have been very helpful in reigning them back in.

HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff had a long conversation with the Camden school official who sent out the letter. It became clear that she was just following a routine that had been established long ago, no doubt prior to the 2000 publication of the FAQs. She was very receptive when Woodruff explained that her letter was dramatically out of step with the FAQs. Woodruff sent her a link to the website where the FAQs are posted so she could review them herself.

Three days later she sent a letter to the HSLDA member family and Woodruff acknowledging that they had the right to completely disregard her letter.