November 29, 2004

Franklin County School Board does the Right Thing

Several member families in Franklin County recently filed for a religious exemption from compulsory attendance as allowed by law in Virginia. However, the assistant superintendent demanded to meet with each family. We asked him to forgo the interviews and process the exemptions without them. He refused.

We reviewed a number of our earlier religious exemption cases in Franklin and concluded that during previous interviews, families had felt intimidated or manipulated, or felt the assistant superintendent was trying to talk them out of pursuing the exemption. In one case, an assistant superintendent personally denied a non-member's exemption despite the fact that the school board, not the assistant superintendent, has the sole statutory authority to make the decision.

We decided the best strategy was to remove the assistant superintendent from the religious exemption process. Attorney Scott Woodruff wrote directly to the school board chairman, explaining that the board's duty under law to handle religious exemptions can not be delegated to an assistant superintendent or anyone else. HSLDA sent detailed legal arguments supporting the exemptions.

Several weeks later, the school board followed HSLDA's advice and approved all the exemptions! We appreciate the school board for taking their responsibility seriously.