June 17, 2005

Latest Developments in Prince William County

Last week I learned that the Prince William County School Board was scheduled to vote to change their homeschool regulations.

The positive change concerned the removal of the preposterous language that made it appear that families had to wait 3 days before starting to homeschool. HSLDA has consistently advised our members to ignore this unlawful policy, and no family has ever been prosecuted for ignoring it (to our knowledge), but it has been occasionally used to harass families.

The first negative change removed the flexible filing period for families in transition. Under state law, families who start homeschooling during the year, or move into the school district, are allowed the flexibility of filing their notice of intent to homeschool "as soon as practicable." This is a good rule because these families in transition are dealing with many issues, and it can be easy to miss a deadline. The proposed regulation abolishes the "as soon as practicable" flexible deadline and replaces it with a hard and fast "five school day" deadline. This contradicts state law and could hurt families.

The second negative change would require families to submit an additional notice. State law requires families to file their notice of intent with the superintendent. The proposed regulation, however, would require families to notify "the base school" of their intention to homeschool. In order to comply with state law, families would still need to notify the superintendent, but to satisfy the regulation, they would also need to notify the base school. Therefore, families would be faced with providing 2 notices rather than 1.

On Thursday I called the attorney for the school board to explain my concerns. She understood them. On Friday we talked again and it was her belief that the proposed regulation would be removed from the school board's "consent agenda" so it could be revised to remove the negative changes.

On Monday, I spoke with Amy Wilson, the local homeschool mom who, with a group of like-minded homeschool parents, deserve credit for making great strides toward wiping the 3-day waiting period off the books. Amy understood my concerns about the two negative changes. We are working together to finalize language we can jointly submit to the board tonight.

Yesterday I had a conversation with school board member Don Richardson, who has been supportive of homeschool families. He agreed that the 3-day regulation should be removed, and also agreed that the flexible filing deadline for families in transition should be preserved, and that families should not be required to submit 2 notices of intent.

On behalf of our 300-plus member families in Prince William County, HSLDA wholeheartedly supports repealing the 3-day waiting period, but it is imperative that this be accomplished without creating new problems. We oppose the proposed regulatory change in its current form because it is one step forward and two steps backward for families, but we will support it once the two negative changes have been removed.

In order to achieve this goal, the proposed regulation must be removed from the consent agenda and placed in a status where it can be reexamined and revised. I plan to speak at the school board meeting tonight and ask that the proposed regulation be removed from the consent agenda so it can be revised to remove the two negative changes.