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DNPE Softens Impact of New Policy
After the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) published a new homeschool policy earlier this summer in a document entitled What’s New at NCDNPE?, Home School Legal Defense Association contacted its director and expressed concern about the policy’s adverse impact on home educators. In a letter dated July 28, 2011, HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black pointed out that the new policy was in conflict with state homeschool law enacted in 1988 by the North Carolina General Assembly. Dr. Chena T. Flood, director of DNPE, sent a reply dated August 5, 2011, and in her letter indicated that the policy would not be fully implemented as originally written. Following are the particulars of the correspondence between HSLDA and DNPE.
The first change described in the policy stated that new homeschool notice of intent forms would only be accepted by DNPE from July through April. Thus, no forms were to be accepted during the months of May and June. In his letter, Black cited the provisions of state law which impose no limitation on the months of the year that DNPE will accept the notice. As written, the policy would prohibit a parent from beginning a homeschool to complete the school year for a child who was removed from another type of school because of bullying, illness, or disability. In Dr. Flood’s response, she stated that the policy would continue, but that a family in one of these extenuating circumstances “may contact DNPE to request a notice of intent form to open a new home school during May and June.” Hopefully this means that DNPE will in fact issue the form and then accept it when it is completed and submitted by the family. While this indicates DNPE’s willingness to exercise some flexibility in the application of the policy, such a policy is still contrary to the provisions of state law that permit the filing of a notice of intent in any month of the year.
The second item of the policy stated that beginning July 1, 2011, “DNPE will go completely automated for submitting home school notice of intent forms, DEC requests, annual home school renewal, and address changes.” Black pointed out in his letter that ever since the homeschool law was enacted in 1988, it has been the practice for all transactions to be accomplished using regular mail or other means by which paper documents are submitted to DNPE. State law does not prescribe the method for sending required information to DNPE, and it does not authorize DNPE to exclude the submission of paper documents. Black noted that while it is unlikely that a homeschooling family would not have access to the internet, some families may only be able to use regular mail to submit documents to DNPE. Dr. Flood’s reply stated that, “DNPE has not and is not preventing any family from submitting paper documents to open a home school, update contact information, or request a driver eligibility certificate (DEC). ...DNPE will not reject forms that are submitted via hardcopy mail.” This statement is a relief to the concerns raised by the written policy. There is no legal objection to the voluntary use of the internet to conduct transactions with DNPE. In fact, many homeschoolers may find it a preferable means of doing business with DNPE.
The third, and most alarming, item of the policy stated that, “Every home school must create an online profile and annually renew/update online to remain in the active database.” As written, this apparently meant that homeschooling families who did not go to DNPE’s website every year and indicate that their school was still in operation would have their school closed by DNPE, thereby rendering them out of compliance with the compulsory attendance law. On the other hand, the state statutes require the school to notify DNPE only “upon termination of the school.” If the school remains in operation, it has no duty to annually notify DNPE that its status remains the same. In his letter to Dr. Flood, Black expressed his opinion that this policy seems particularly unfair in that a family who did not renew online but continued to operate their homeschool would be placed in truancy status by DNPE even though they were fully complying with state law. In Dr. Flood’s reply, she informed Black that, “DNPE is not activating the online profile as proposed.” She further stated that this is the last year that DNPE will mail the pink and gray postcards seeking updated information. Instead, homeschools will be requested to annually update their information using the online survey. While Dr. Flood’s letter did not expressly say so, it follows that a school that does not participate in the annual update will nevertheless remain in active status.
HSLDA member families having questions about or difficulties with the current policy as it is being implemented should contact us for assistance.