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New Jersey

September 15, 2010
Rochelle Park Echoes the Bad Old Days

After HSLDA member Kerry Ober (name changed to protect privacy) notified the Rochelle Park school district that they would be homeschooling their daughter, a school representative wrote back:

“It has come to my attention that you intend to homeschool your child. Please provide the following two required documents: (1) Letter indicating your intention to homeschool your child. (2) Brief scope and sequence of the curriculum that will be covered. It is essential that we receive these items…to ensure you are compliant with N.J.S.A. 18A:38 et seq.”

The Obers immediately contacted HSLDA for help. HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff emailed the school official a copy of the document “Frequently Asked Question: Homeschooling” from the New Jersey Department of Education. Woodruff pointed to the FAQs that say neither a notice of intent nor a curriculum description are necessary.

The official promptly responded and agreed that the family was not required to supply the two documents he had requested. We appreciate the school system’s quick rectification.

In September of 2010, we celebrate 10 years of relative tranquility in the New Jersey homeschool community under the FAQs, which were formally published in September of 2000 (see the Jan/Feb 2001 Court Report). It is easy now to forget the troubled times that came before.

Leading up to September of 2000, homeschooling in New Jersey was in turmoil because the prior Commissioner of Education (Leo Klagholz) had proclaimed a homeschool policy that was both hostile to freedom and out of line with state law and judicial precedent. Threats of litigation, confusion, and anxiety permeated the homeschool community.

But when a new commissioner was installed, HSLDA, major state homeschool organizations and advocates sat down with state and local education officials to work toward a fresh start. After several long and intense meetings, the result was a breakthrough.

The Department of Education withdrew the former guidelines and adopted the present FAQs. The FAQs were characterized by faithful adherence to state statutes, judicial precedent, and common sense. They brought an end to the “bad old days.” And they have proven their merit by withstanding the test of time.

Faint echoes of the old policy still linger, such as when school districts like Rochelle Park demand notice and curriculum information. But New Jersey can now be viewed as the best state overall in the Northeast region in which to homeschool.