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February 7, 2017

Enrollment Down? Let’s Harass Homeschoolers!

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At a recent meeting, members of the Lee County School Board discussed students being taught at home by their parents.

Tj Schmidt TJ SCHMIDT
Contact attorney for Kentucky

Chairman William Owens specifically asked, “Is there any way that we can test them to see if they are valid?” The director of pupil personnel (DPP), David Lyons, told the board that he was trying to get the courts involved more with students who are being taught at home.

At least one homeschool family read the minutes of the meeting and were alarmed by the tone of the discussion about homeschool families. They quickly contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.

After reading the notes taken from the meeting, I wrote a letter to the DPP. I asked what exactly he had meant when he reported to the school board chairman that he was trying to get the courts involved more with homeschool students.

In my letter I pointed out that under Kentucky law, homeschool programs operate much like  private schools. They are required to keep attendance records and issue scholarship reports (i.e. report cards) in the same manner (every six or nine weeks) as the public schools.

However, homeschool programs are operated by parents exercising their fundamental right to direct their child’s education. As such, there is also a long-term understanding within the state that homeschool parents who submit their notice within the first two weeks of the school year are presumed to be conducting a bona-fide school.

Under the Best Practices Document, direct scrutiny of a homeschool program is only permitted when there is evidence that a child is not being educated at home in accordance with state law. This agreement is meant to prevent the unwarranted harassment of homeschool families without some evidence of a failure to educate the child.

As I reviewed the Lee County School Board minutes, it became clear to me that the board was worried about money. Before the discussion of homeschooling families, board members talked about the fact that their overall enrollment is down. We wonder if their concern about whether homeschooling families are valid is related to a desire to get them back into the public school system in order to boost enrollment, and consequently, the district’s funding.

Whatever these officials’ motives may be, we intend to defend the right of parents to educate their children at home without being harassed by the government.