August 6, 2012

Harford Makes Several Changes at HSLDA’s Request

Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Maryland. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

R.K. was surprised when Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) sent her a form asking her to confirm that she would homeschool her children for the next year, since the annual verification (as it is called) is the job of the umbrella organization under which she homeschools. A member of HSLDA, she asked for help.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff noticed a number of problems with the form and contacted HCPS requesting changes.

Woodruff told HCPS that they should not send annual verification forms to families who are enrolled in umbrella programs (verification is the umbrella’s job). He also pointed out that the form was out of line with state regulations because it asked families for more information than is necessary—including the child’s grade level and the public school the child would attend. And the form inappropriately asked the family to promise to comply with homeschool regulations (this is covered in the original Notice of Consent). Finally, the form asked families how they plan to educate their children if they choose to stop homeschooling.

In response to Woodruff’s request, HCPS agreed to stop sending annual verification forms to families in umbrellas. They also agreed to stop asking for grade level and the name of the public school the child would have attended, and to stop asking the family to promise they will comply with the regulations.

However, HCPS insisted on continuing to ask for the family’s alternate plans if they stop homeschooling. This is not only outside the boundaries of the homeschool regulations, but it makes no sense. Once a family switches to an educational option other than homeschooling, they are no longer required to file an annual verification at all! It is a futile gesture to ask a family to comply with homeschool regulations after they are no longer homeschooling.

We appreciate the willingness of HCPS to make most of the changes we requested, and their willingness (as they told us) to accept a verification without using any form at all. However, their insistence on retaining a question not authorized under the regulations is an excellent example of why Maryland families should avoid using forms “home-cooked” by individual counties.