September 24, 2004

Homeschoolers Object to Misuse of Portfolio Reviews

For many years, the Florida homeschool law has allowed school districts to inspect the portfolios of homeschoolers with only fifteen days written notice. Unfortunately, too many school districts have misapplied this law by randomly harassing innocent homeschool families.

We believe that homeschoolers, who have convictions against showing their portfolio to the school district, have a means to object.

First of all, homeschoolers who have religious reasons for homeschooling could invoke the Florida Religious Freedom Act (Florida Statutes Section 761.01 et seq) that HSLDA helped pass a few years ago. This act provides religious homeschoolers with a legal means to say "no" to the portfolio review; if the portfolio review is offensive to the religious beliefs of the homeschooler. By evoking the Religious Freedom Act the homeschooler can force the state to prove that the fulfillment of a portfolio review "furthers a compelling state interest" and is the "least restrictive means" of fulfilling its interest that children be educated.

In Pennsylvania we are using that state's Religious Freedom Act to successfully fight against a very cumbersome and regulatory homeschool law that has substantially burdened families for years.

Secondly, it was never the intent of the legislature that portfolio reviews be used as a tool for harassment. We believe that portfolio reviews should only be used if there is evidence that a family is not in compliance with the law. It should not be a common practice performed on a random basis.

For example, in Miami-Dade County, a letter was sent out earlier this summer telling all families in the county that this was their fifteen-day written notice. They were then told that a representative of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, who happened to be a school social worker, may contact them to review their educational portfolio any time after that. We have received some reports from families that did not have a pleasant experience when the social worker came to their door demanding to review the portfolio.

Other counties, such as Gulf County, are also performing random portfolio reviews of innocent families.

Thirdly, homeschoolers who object to a portfolio review can invoke the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees the right of parental liberty. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted this liberty to include the fundamental right "of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children." A demand by the school district to review portfolio records could be found to violate these parental rights.

Therefore, HSLDA is willing to help any families in Florida who object, on parental rights and/or religious grounds, to the random demand for a portfolio review.

Please contact HSLDA as soon as possible if you have a conviction that leads you to reject participation in portfolio reviews. We will write a letter to the school district explaining that the portfolio reviews violate your Fourteenth Amendment parental rights, the legislature's intent, and your rights under the Florida Religious Freedom Act.