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May 16, 2016

Clearing up Confusion over New Homeschool Law

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Parents cannot assess their own children. If you turn in a late assessment, you can’t homeschool anymore. You must send us an outline of your plan of instruction.

Mike Donnelly MIKE DONNELLY Contact attorney for West Virginia

These are just a few of the more egregious errors contained in a Berkeley County policy recently released to homeschooling families there.

With one of the largest reported populations of homeschooled students in the state, Berkeley County has had a reputation of being generally friendly towards homeschooling families. However, this new policy may indicate problems ahead—and not just for Berkeley County families. HSLDA has received reports from families in several other counties of school officials stating that they will not follow West Virginia’s new homeschool law or that they will enact their own policies based on their own preferences.

West Virginia homeschool families have been anticipating many important changes scheduled to take effect on May 23. These changes are the result of years of effort to modernize the state’s homeschool law. Passed by the legislature in February and then signed by the governor, the new law removes burdensome requirements placed on homeschool parents. Among other things, the law now permits parents to administer standardized tests to their children and eliminates the requirement to outline a plan of instruction.

Berkeley County’s “updated” policy, however, directly contradicts these specific changes to the law. Berkeley County’s “recommended” notice of intent form also requests much more information from families than the law requires.

Discrepancies

After obtaining a copy of the widely circulated documents from member families, HSLDA’s West Virginia legal team—staff attorney Michael Donnelly and legal assistant Jill Burcham—wrote to Berkeley County’s new assistant superintendent in charge of home education compliance. Among the policy discrepancies we listed was a “recommendation” that families continue to submit an annual assessment, despite the new law’s requirement that assessments only be sent to the superintendent’s office for grades 3, 5, 8, and 11. The district requested that homeschool notices be sent by July—a stipulation that does not appear in the law. The “recommended” notification also requested dates of birth and grades for each child, information explicitly not required by the new law. HSLDA requested that the assistant superintendent revise the policy and send out a corrected copy. We invited her to contact us if we could be of assistance.

HSLDA expects more problems like this as school officials grapple with the new law. We have been informed that the State Board of Education has been working to educate local boards of education and attendance officers about the new law. Based on documents we have seen, we believe that the state board has been objectively and fairly characterizing the new law. However, because there are 50 individual counties, many of which are coping with staff change, we expect more counties either to send out incorrect or outdated information to homeschool families or to enforce the new law incorrectly.

How can you help smooth this process? If you have any concerns about new policies that appear to be inconsistent with the new law, let us know immediately. We are prepared to take swift corrective action to assist in resolving confusion or concern relating to any issues between the county education authorities and our member families!

HSLDA has been defending homeschooling freedoms for individual families and the entire movement since 1983. Our lawyers and legal assistants are all homeschooling parents or graduates, and our entire staff is devoted to serving and supporting homeschooling families. We are passionate about your freedom and are standing by to serve you. We have created a publicly available resource outlining all of the changes to the homeschool law and we encourage you to become familiar with this reference and to let others know about it. As always, we welcome members to contact us with any questions related to homeschooling.