September 9, 2009

Truancy Threatened for Refusal to Disclose Grade Level

After homeschooling under the notice of intent provision for several years, Rusty Johnson (name changed to protect his privacy) notified his Lynchburg-area school system that he would be educating children under the approved tutor provision of the law instead.

The requirements of this provision are simple: notify the superintendent that you have a current Virginia teacher certificate and that you intend to tutor children. It is not necessary to identify the children you plan on tutoring, or provide annual notice, or year-end assessments. Then send renewals of your certificate if you intend to continue tutoring—Code of Virginia 22.1-254.1 (A).

Apparently unfamiliar with this law, the assistant superintendent wrote Johnson back and asked for the grade level of his son—which is not necessary under the approved tutor provision.

A member of HSLDA, Johnson asked for help. HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff wrote to the assistant superintendent explaining that under the approved tutor provision of Virginia law, the tutor is not required to give the names, ages, grades, or any other information about the students he is tutoring—or may choose to tutor in the future.

The assistant superintendent responded that the school board needed the age and grade level of each child to enforce the compulsory attendance law. He said that he would have no choice but to report the child as truant if Johnson did not supply the information. He did not explain how he thought a child’s grade level affected the enforcement of compulsory attendance. (It doesn’t.)

Woodruff promptly replied, explaining that it is normal for one student to be operating on several grade levels simultaneously. Back when nationally standardized tests were used in Virginia schools, he added, teachers could easily see that a particular student might be operating on two or three grade levels—which might or might not correspond to his nominal school grade level. Woodruff explained the law again and the obvious fact that when a child is being tutored (or homeschooled), it is not necessary to peg them to one single grade.

Four days later the assistant superintendent acknowledged that Johnson did not need to provide the grade level of his son.