March 20, 2009

Official Questions Homeschooler During Portfolio Review

On March 11, a Walton County School District official met with an HSLDA member family to review their kindergarten son’s portfolio. The school official signed a form stating that the student’s portfolio was in compliance with Florida statutes, however, the family was concerned about some comments the school official made during the meeting. The family contacted HSLDA for help.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Chris Klicka agreed with the family that the comments made by the school official were unwarranted, so Klicka drafted a letter to the school official addressing his concerns.

One concern the family had was that the school official handwrote the following on the “Home Education Portfolio Inspection Form,”: “Portfolio has required items—*Parent decision to retain student in K although teacher recommended ready for next level.”

In addition to the handwritten note, the school official told the family that if they did not have first-grade work for their kindergarten son by August of 2009, the son would be forced to attend public school. To top it all off, the school official asked the family multiple times if they would consider enrolling their son in public school and pressured the family to familiarize themselves with Florida public school standards.

Klicka’s letter addressed the above concerns by informing the school official that the family had a right to choose how their student would be educated and that their home education was in full compliance with applicable Florida law. The letter also discussed how a homeschool parents do not have to comply with state public school curriculum standards, nor do they need to teach a child at any particular level. The purpose of homeschooling is to allow a parent the flexibility to accommodate a child’s specific needs.

Klicka assured the school official that the family had tailored their home education program to meet their students’ specific developmental needs, and as already shown, the Florida certified teacher who conducted the family’s annual evaluation certified that the program is appropriate for the student’s abilities. The statement that the student “is ready to be promoted to the next level” indicates only that the student has mastered the material he has already studied and may move to more difficult work, not that he is required to be moved to the next grade. The letter informed the school official that it is up to the parent to decide whether it is right to move their student to the next grade or not, and that the Walton County School District does not have the authority to force the student to attend public school simply because there was no “first grade” work in his next portfolio.

After the school official received Klicka’s letter, she called Chris Klicka and agreed with the letter, assuring Klicka the situation was resolved. She also agreed to work with HSLDA in future portfolio review situations.