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Virginia

September 2, 2003

Parents Denied the Right to Teach their Children Driver's Education because of Inaccurate DMV Form

Earlier this year, the Home Education Association of Virginia (HEAV) and HSLDA sponsored a bill that would allow parents to teach their own children the in-car portion of the driver's education program, using an approved driver's education curriculum.

HB 2404 passed a full House of Delegates vote on February 1. It passed the Senate on February 20 and was signed by the Governor on March 24.

Unfortunately, in developing agency requirements for the parent-taught driver's education program, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has imposed a requirement upon parents that clearly goes beyond the intent of the Virginia Legislature. On July 3, 2003, an inaccurate form entitled "Home-Schooled In-Car Driver Education Information Sheet" was issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. As a result, scores of homeschooling families are being rejected the right to teach driver's education by DMV offices throughout the state.

The "Home-Schooled In-Car Driver Education Information Sheet" (form HS-3) and the accompanying "Home-Schooled in-Car Driver Education Parental Authorization Application" (form HS-1) both require the parent to attach a letter from the school division superintendent documenting "approval" to provide home instruction.

The problem with this requirement is that homeschoolers are not required to seek approval from their superintendent. Thus, they are not able to provide the required documentation.

HSLDA and HEAV were able to influence the drafting of the language for the parent-taught driver's education bill. The language specifically stated that students may receive the behind-the-wheel portion of their driver's education from a behind-the-wheel training course approved by the Board "in the case of a home schooling parent or guardian instructing his own child who meets the requirements for home school instruction under [the homeschool statute] or [the religious exemption statute]." Nothing in the new law requires a parent to seek approval from the school superintendent.

Furthermore, whether a family operates under the homeschool statute or claims a religious exemption, the family is not required to seek approval from the superintendent. Under the homeschool statute homeschool parents simply notify the superintendent. He is free to acknowledge or remain silent about that notification. No approval must be requested, nor is such authority given to the superintendent.

For homeschoolers who operate under the religious exemption statute, parents simply provide proof that they have bona fide religious beliefs that make them opposed to sending their children to public school. There are no other requirements that must be satisfied and no approval to be obtained. If a family declares that they have the religious beliefs necessarily required by statute, the school district must allow them to legally homeschool.

As a result of the DMV's requirement for proof of approval, families have been denied the ability to teach the behind-the-wheel portion of driver's education because they have no way of proving that the school district approved their program. Even when school districts are willing to verify compliance with the homeschool statute, obtaining this verification can take weeks or even months. Moreover, HSLDA has received reports of member homeschool families who operate under the religious exemption in Virginia that were rejected authorization to provide instruction by DMV even after they presented a letter from the school board recognizing their religious exemption.

In order to correct this inconsistency between DMV policy and the Virginia homeschool law, Chris Klicka, senior counsel for Home School Legal Defense Association, wrote to the commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Attorney Klicka pointed out that homeschool students have been able to obtain their driver's license without proving "approval" from the school district. Home educated students are able to obtain their driver's license when the parents of the student provide written evidence that the child is in compliance with the compulsory school attendance law.

Attorney Klicka's letter to the DMV commissioner pointed out that the requirement in the "Home-Schooled In-Car Driver Education Information Sheet" that parents attach a letter from the superintendent documenting approval is inconsistent with state law, and requested that DMV change both HS-1 and HS-3 immediately to reflect both statutory language and legislative intent.

HSLDA is still awaiting a response from DMV. In the meantime, families who are denied the ability to teach the behind-the-wheel portion of driver's education should contact HSLDA's Legal Department.

 Other Resources

Letter to DMV Commissioner Smit (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)