New Jersey
New Jersey

January 8, 2010
Cliffwood Lake: “Now that we are aware of your children’s status…”

After homeschooling in Cliffwood Lake for three years, the Petermans (name changed to protect privacy) decided to give a courtesy notice to the superintendent.

He wrote back: “It is my responsibility to determine if the programs you are using are equivalent to those in our schools.” He continued: “I need to make this determination and seek your help in doing so… We would like to arrange a meeting, so we might explore this further.”

While the tone of the letter was courteous and friendly, the message was troubling. The superintendent was asserting that the school system had the authority to judge the contents of the family’s curriculum.

This is the type of conflict that motivated homeschool leaders to meet with education officials in 2000 and revise the state Department of Education’s policy guidance on homeschooling. The result was a consensus document, the New Jersey Department of Education's 2000 policy statement, “Frequently Asked Questions: Homeschooling.” It lined up so well with state law and court cases that conflict in New Jersey fell by magnitudes.

Unfortunately, Cliffwood Lake never got the proverbial memo. Although they revised their homeschool policy in 2003, they did not incorporate the state's 2000 policy guidance. While the superintendent’s requests to the Petermans were consistent with Cliffwood Lake’s written policy, the policy itself was obsolete.

The Petermans, members of HSLDA since 1997, contacted us for help.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff called the superintendent and followed up with a letter detailing the problem and suggesting solutions. After conferring with the school system’s attorney, the superintendent agreed that the policy needed to be substantially revised to bring it up to date. And he dropped all his requests to the Petermans.