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August 29, 2017

Kentucky eclipse

Official’s Astronomical Lack of Common Sense Casts Shadow on Family’s Eclipse Trip

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Tj Schmidt TJ SCHMIDT
HSLDA contact attorney for Kentucky

During a home visit prompted by an anonymous report, a public school official told homeschooling mom Hope Jones that taking her kids to see a rare solar eclipse wasn’t educational.

Hope wasn’t completely surprised when the official—the assistant director of pupil personnel in Jefferson County—knocked on her door.

She knew some of her relatives didn’t appreciate the decision she had made last year to begin homeschooling her daughter, whose brother she was already teaching at home. But Hope knew that it was the right decision after the trauma her daughter had endured at the local public school.

What Hope didn’t expect was the brusque and confrontational way the official treated her.

In the nearly hour-long home visit, the assistant director told Hope that the trip that her family took to observe the solar eclipse couldn’t be counted as school time. The school official also belittled her ability to educate her children, stating that even as a professional educator he wasn’t qualified to teach his own children at home.

Through it all, Hope doggedly stuck to what she knew was right: that homeschooling was best for her children and that she was in compliance with Kentucky law. The visit ended with the school official demanding samples of schoolwork for both her children, along with attendance and scholarship records. He warned that if he did not receive these records within two days, further action would be taken.

At the time of the visit, Jefferson County schools had only completed one week of classes.

Reaching out for Help

Shaken by this visit, Hope talked to a friend who in turn reached out through a private Facebook group connected with Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK), the statewide homeschool organization. Within minutes I was made aware of the situation. Later that day I was able to speak with Hope and hear the complete story.

Hope shared her relief at having someone to advocate for her, especially after such an unsettling encounter.

“He not only questioned my qualifications to teach my children, but also my dedication as a parent,” she said, speaking of the school official. “Nobody should go through that alone.”

The next day I contacted both the assistant director and the director of pupil personnel in Jefferson County. When I spoke with the assistant director, he was calm and conciliatory—presenting a completely different demeanor than the one Hope had experienced.

He informed me that the Kentucky Department of Education had forwarded him a report against Hope. He implied that this made it imperative for him to check up on her homeschool program.

After a couple of questions, he acknowledged there was something suspicious about the report and that it didn’t seem quite right. He admitted that the person who made the report probably didn’t know who else to contact and decided to contact the Kentucky Department of Education.

Unreasonable Expectations

I explained Kentucky’s homeschool requirements and pointed out that while school had just begun, Hope already had completed more days of instruction than the public school. I added that while Hope did have records from the current school year, even the public school wouldn’t provide the first report cards for at least another six weeks.

I also confirmed that Hope had homeschooled her son last year and stated that the attendance records and most recent scholarship report (i.e. report cards) should be more than enough to demonstrate that she was currently homeschooling her children and that she was in compliance with Kentucky law. I told the assistant director that I did not feel it was necessary for Hope to provide samples of her children’s work—and that nothing in Kentucky law required her to provide them.

The assistant director said this would be acceptable, and we discussed when those records would be submitted. He admitted that he had no concerns with Hope’s homeschool program and that, after his visit to her home, he felt she was doing a good job. He even said that he knew Hope had a right to teach her children at home and that Jefferson County Public Schools recognized that fact.

After relaying this to Hope, she confirmed that this was certainly not the impression he had given her during his visit.

Within two days I provided the school district with the required scholarship and attendance records for both children. I requested that the assistant director promptly confirm receipt of this information and acknowledge that Hope’s homeschool program was in compliance with Kentucky law. We received the director’s confirmation the next day that these documents had been received and that Hope was in good standing with Jefferson County.

This story illustrates how important it is for homeschooling families to support a local state homeschool organization like CHEK. We believe so strongly in this that we give $20 off HSLDA membership if your family is part of your state organization or local support group that participates in our discount program.