May 30, 2013

Can Parents be Trusted?

Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Ohio. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

If the law asks for an “assurance,” does that mean “evidentiary and documentary proof”? Apparently some Ohio school officials thinks so. When one Ohio homeschooling family submitted a notification of intent to homeschool during the year, with the necessary assurances, they reasonably expected to receive a letter of excuse. Instead, however, they received a somewhat vague form letter stating that they had not supplied the necessary “home school information and assurances.”

The mother contacted the school to find out what was missing and was told she needed to submit a copy of her high school diploma for the school to keep on file. Ohio’s regulation O.A.C. 3301-34, however, is quite clear that a parent is to provide “assurances” for a variety of things, including qualifications; all of which the family had done in their notice of intent. Qualifications to homeschool in Ohio includes graduation from high school, and the mother had indeed assured the school that she had, in fact, graduated from high school.

Positive Statements

Dictionary.com says that “assurance” means a “positive declaration intended to give confidence.” Assurances are positive statements (in writing) to give the superintendents confidence that parents will meet the requirements so that they can then, in confidence, issue letters of excuse. The superintendent requesting a copy of the mother’s homeschool diploma, however, wanted more than a mere “assurance” that she met the instructor qualification requirements—he was looking for documentary proof. But that isn’t how the Ohio regulation works—nor should it be.

The family knew this wasn’t right, and they also knew that when things like this happen they reach for the phone and call HSLDA. They were soon in touch with HSLDA’s Ohio legal team—attorney Mike Donnelly and legal assistant Gregory Escobar.

They got the answers they were looking for and swift action.

Taking Action

Donnelly wrote a letter to the school district explaining the homeschool law and assuring the school that the mother was not required to provide a copy of her homeschool diploma.

He requested that the superintendent promptly issue a letter of excuse. He did. Immediately.

“Thank you for your time and for the letter you sent,” the mother told HSLDA. “The school district sent us the letter of excuse soon after receiving your correspondence. We are grateful for HSLDA and appreciate the quick and decisive action.”

At HSLDA we think that parents can be trusted to make assurances. So does Ohio law. Sometimes school officials get caught up in their own world and rely on their own interpretation of the law. That is where HSLDA can help. If you encounter difficulties with officials interpreting the law different from how you think it ought to be—call HSLDA; we’re here to help.

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