Monthly Archives: May 2008

Ohio Home Educators Network

Ohio Home Educators Network (OHEN) is a regional network of homeschooling families. We are an inclusive group supporting families of all religious beliefs.

Although OHEN supports a student-led, interest-centered approach, we welcome all homeschooling families regardless of educational philosophy or teaching style.

OHEN’s purpose is to provide interested parents with accurate information about home education in Ohio.

We hold informational meetings and offer a discussion group for families to share resources and discuss homeschool issues.

OHEN is a network of homeschooling families in the Northeast Ohio area. The network, started in 1991, is run completely by volunteers. O-HEN does not sell or distribute any curriculum, textbooks or teaching supplies.

OHEN

THOMAS

As I have mentioned before, some of us have been reading and discussing the book, “Taking Charge Through Homeschooling, Political and Personal Empowerment” by D. Larry and Susan M. Kaseman. For those of us who thought that politics was beyond our understanding, this is a book filled with practical information that helps us to understand how simple our participation can be in the political process. Many libraries carry the book, or you can purchase it used or at HEM.

If you do want to follow federal legislation that pertain to homeschooling, a helpful resource is the THOMAS Web Site. The THOMAS site is a service of the Library of Congress. At this site you can look up the U.S. Code, proposed legislation, Historical Documents, Congressional Records, Committee information and much more.

Thomas also has a link for state resources, other jurisdictions and other resources. Under “Other Resources” you will find almost everything you wanted to know about your state and how it is governed.

Homeschool empowerment

Talking to one another about home-education and home-education issues has always been a really important part of protecting our home-education freedoms. The discussion seemed to happen more often sixteen years ago and I have to wonder if this has happened as other have become more aware of the option?.

During one of the early day homeschool information meetings, I recall a veteran homeschooler telling us new families to read and study the rules and regulations that govern Ohio Home-Education. Since then, that’s what we have suggested to new homeschoolers as they have started down this path.

Because we do know the rules and regulations that govern homeschooling in our state, when superintendents or other officials have attempted to ask more of us than was required by law, we have been able to counter those requests by politely referring them to the statutes. Had each individual not taken the time to study the statutes, many would have likely been intimidated into thinking these official’s unnecessary requests were indeed legitimate.

Whether you are a member of a national organization that claims to protect home-education freedoms, the member of a home-education network, a member of a homeschool support group, it is each individual’s responsibility to know their rights and not depend on anyone else to protect their freedoms. It is up to each individual to study the issues and information others might present, investigate and verify that information and then make one’s own informed choice on any issue.

As homeschooling has grown more popular, corporate and public entities continue to invent hybrid programs that combine school at home with public school and proudly claim to be recapturing1 us “back” into the system. Home-educators are being observed and studied more intensively each year by these same entities, educators, legislators and the media. Because we are being scrutinized so closely, discussions within our communities about protecting homeschooling and our fundamental freedoms need to take place now more than ever.

Do we sometimes become so busy living life; enjoying liberty and pursuing happiness that we forget to actively protect our fundamental freedoms? Some have said they don’t know how or where to begin these discussions about protecting homeschool freedoms. We have often used, Taking Charge Through Homeschooling: Personal and Political Empowerment as a sort of outline.

Homeschooling is not a small public school at home, but it is as diverse and undefined as each family and child that it serves. Homeschooling has brought a richness to all our lives and we owe to ourselves remain active in our own way, watch the issues and protect it’s liberating principles for future generations to come.

Resources

Another one of my passions is finding free or reasonable resources to share with others. Check back daily for new and exciting resources.

If you know of a new or exciting resource and want me to share it here, contact me here. ~Mary Nix

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR DISTRICT ASKS FOR “PROOF”by Sue Duncan

Proof of Residency, Proof of Custody, Proof of Minimal Educational Background – TeachingQualifications – High School Diploma, Provision of900 hours of home education; Provision o fPrior Academic History – First Year of Notification,Teacher Certification Number, The Importance of the Signature of Affirmation, What Do You Do?

From time to time, school districts contact home educators and communicate that they require “proof” with respect to the parent’s notification of intention to home educate. Homeschoolers have been asked to provide proof of residency, proof of custody, proof of educational background/teaching qualifications, certification number of evaluator, proof that 900 hours of home education will be provided, e.g, record-keeping, and so on.

Quite simply: No “proof” is required to be provided by the home educator in accordance with the notification requirements of the home education regulations (OAC 3301-34-03 (A)-(B) )

Clearly, the Statement of Purpose (OAC3301-34-02) reflects the purpose of the home education regulations …”to prescribe the conditions governing the issuance of excuses from school attendance under section 3321.04 of the Revised Code, to provide for the consistent application thereof throughout the state by superintendents, and to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren)…”

The regulations for issuing excuses from compulsory attendance are clear and in accordance with ORC 3321.04(C) are “binding upon the authorities empowered to issue them.” The home education regulations meet state’s mandate of compulsory attendance. School districts may not increase, delete from, or alter the home education regulations in any way.

Further, as outlined in the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993 :

Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive?

Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements.

Requiring additional "proof" of various types would be an alteration of the home education notification requirements by a school district and is not allowed under the home education regulations.

Furthermore, the home education regulations AND the state-generated notification form (from Supt. Of Public Instruction-Ohio Department of Education) demonstrates on the part of the State Board of Education a ratification of the legitimacy in the parental choice of home education. Neither the regulations themselves nor the state-generated notification form require that parents provide PROOF, for example, of minimal educational background, or that they will provide 900 hours of home education. Indeed, on the form and in the regulations, the word of the parent – the signature of affirmation the parent – is all that is required.

This format was not chosen lightly or without great discussion and debate. The conclusion reached by Ohio State Board of Education with respect to the home education regulations is that parental choice with respect to the education of their children is to be upheld, that parents have a “primary right” to provide that education and have that right safeguarded by the state, and that their word in this matter is their bond. When a school district requires various proofs or information beyond the regulations, homeschoolers view these actions as a demonstration of a disregard and disrespect for the parents and their decision to home educate, as though a parent cannot be trusted with this important decision for their child(ren); as though a impersonal school district is somehow blessed with knowledge not available to parents and knows what is best for all families.

Further, parents sign the notification information under a signature of affirmation, similar to an oath – a solemn declaration regarding the information provided. OAC 3301-34-03(A)(10). The intent of the committee ( as stated by Diana Fessler, former Butler County SBE representative and member of the 3321.04 Advisory Committee which wrote the current home education regulations and advised SBE in this matter) was that said affirmation would be sufficient and that a parent’s word is his bond.

A review of the required information would demonstrate that none of the information requires an approval process; it should be an administrative procedure to process home education notifications. Indeed, the school year is not up for approval, nor is the parent’s name, address; nor name and address of person teaching the child, if other than the parent, nor is the child’s full name or birthdate. These are vital statistics which are provided to the district. Parents provide their assurance – an agreement to provide 900 hours of home education, to cover certain subject areas, and their minimal-attained educational level; they agree but such agreement is not to be “approved.” It is provided as required data, not for approval of the district. Indeed, the task of the district with respect to home education is to see that the required information is in place; the district does not approve home education since this is a primary parental right to choose this option. And, parents affirm the provided information by their signature, again, this signature does not require district approval. The regulations specifically state the curriculum outline and resource listing are supplied to demonstrate that the parents have given considered thought to their educational plan, but they are not supplied for a judgment regarding their content or quality. That they are supplied is all that is required. The words following the requirements for these pieces of data are instructive: “Such outline (or list) is for informational purposes only.” Clearly, this indicates that this information is not being provided for a judgment regarding quality, content or adequacy, but rather to see that the parent has an academic plan.

In subsequent years of home education, parents are required to again respond to state’s interest in education by providing an assessment of the child’s progress for the previous school year. The parents make the appropriate choice for their child(ren) and provide that information, understanding the standards of progress required under the various assessment options. No approval or action is required by the superintendent, except in the case where academic progress is not achieved in accordance with the regulations.

A district’s notification to home educators that they must provide PROOF, whether of residency, custody, teaching qualifications/educational background, certification number, 900 hours, etc. is clearly an addition to the requirements for an excuse from compulsory attendance for the purpose of home education.

Home educators may not be denied an excuse from compulsory attendance based on declining to provide UNrequired, additional information or “proof/s” to the school district.

————————————————————–

Homeschoolers understand that there is a state’s interest in compulsory attendance (ORC 3321.04) and comply with said interest by providing information in accordance with the rules set forth by the State Board of Education, OAC 3301-34 Rules for Excuse From Compulsory Attendance for Home Education. We understand that we must comply with the responsibilities outlined in these regulations and that we may not pick and choose which we shall comply with and which we shall ignore. We further understand that this Rule also contains obligations and burdens for the superintendent. Our home education regulations have the “force of law.”

PROOF OF RESIDENCY

Homeschoolers are required by the home education regulations to provide notification of their intention to home educate to the superintendent of their school district of residence in accordance with the following citations from the home education regulations:

” A parent who elects to provide home education shall supply the following information to the superintendent (OAC 3301-34-03(A).

“School District of residence means the public school district within which the parent resides.” (OAC 3301-34-01(D)

“Superintendent” means the superintendent of schools of the city, county, or exempted village school district in which the parent resides. (OAC 3301-34-01(E)

It is incumbent upon the home educator, as part of his responsibility, to make every effort to determine and notify the appropriate party of his intention to home educate. This is especially important since “local” superintendents and other designees, including Coordinators of Special Services, principals, school guidance counselors, attendance officers, etc. do not have authority to issue an excuse from compulsory attendance and the regulations are specific in the definition of who constitutes a “superintendent.” (See above definition)

Provision of the information required under OAC 3301-34-03-Notification (A)(2) – name, address of parent – should be sufficient information from which the district could ascertain the residency status of the home educating family. Certainly, it is understood that the district would have access to informational databases from which to verify residency status, if that is necessary for the conduct of their responsibilities. The requirement that home educators provide such residency proof is not established in the regulations and would not be cause for denying an excuse from compulsory attendance.

Also instructive in this regard, the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993 :

Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive?

Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements.

Home educators may not be compelled to provide proof of residency, beyond the required factual data – name and address, signature of affirmation, to the district.

A home educator may not be denied an excuse from compulsory attendance as a result of declining to provide this Unrequired, additional information.

PROOF OF CUSTODY or CUSTODIAL STATUS

With respect to proof of custodial status, please refer to the definition section of the regulations:

(C) “Parent” means a parent, guardian or other person having charge or care of a child as defined by section 3321.01 of the Revised Code. (OAC 3301-34-01(C) ). The notification form/letter is signed as “parent” under a signature of affirmation, a solemn declaration regarding the information provided.

The regulations are specific in this regard as well and require no provision of information to the district beyond the notification requirements in Paragraph A of the Rule. THAT information has been provided to the superintendent, e.g, child’s full name and date of birth, parent name and address, signature of affirmation as “parent.”

Further, in accordance with the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993, provided to all superintendents:

Question 8: “How do missing children laws affect the information collected on home education families? (Check of driver’s license, birth certificates, etc.)

Answer: School Boards can only collect the data set forth in the State Board standards governing home education.

This data does not extend to provision of proof of custodial status. An excuse from compulsory attendance may not be denied if a parent declines to provide this UNrequired, additional information.

PROOF of MINIMAL EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND or TEACHING QUALIFICATIONSe.g, high school diploma

Proof of a minimal educational background/teaching qualification is not required information except insofar as the home educator provides assurance – a checkmark or comment “yes” – that s/he has at least the minimal educational background outlined in the home education regulations. (OAC 3301-34-03(A)(9) ).

The Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993, memorandum to all superintendents, is instructive:

Question 9: May superintendents request copies of high school diplomas, college diplomas, transcripts, etc. of home education parents, or home teachers to “affirm” that proper credentials are in place?

Answer: No, the standards do not require that the specific copy of a high school diploma or college diploma, etc. be sent with the notification for home education.

Furthermore, in the same document:

Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive?

Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements.

Home educators may not be compelled to provide proof of minimal educational background or teaching qualifications, e.g., high school diploma, as a condition for issuance of an excuse from compulsory attendance. They need only demonstrate by their assurance – a checkmark or comment “YES” next to the appropriate qualification – that they qualify under the requirements of the home education regulations.

An excuse from compulsory attendance may not be denied if a parent declines to provide this UNrequired, additional information.

PROOF that 900 HOURS OF HOME EDUCATION HAS BEEN PROVIDED.

Home educators have been asked to supply “proof” that they had provided their child(ren) with 900 hours of home education. Usually this has been requested in the form of records or documentation that the required subject matter and agreed-to 900 hours had been provided. The reasoning of the district being that they wish to ensure that children are receiving an “education.”

This information is not required as part of the notification requirements (OAC3301-34-03) for home education. Instructive in this regard is the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993, provided to all superintendents:

Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive?

Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements.

Furthermore, this is not the purview of the school district. The school district provides the homeschooler with an excuse from compulsory ATTENDANCE. Home educators respond to the state’s interest by providing the notification information thereby enabling the superintendent to conduct his statutory responsibilities under the compulsory attendance law.

When parents undertake the home education option, they understand that THEY will be providing their child/ren’s education and, indeed, this very purpose is specifically stated in the regulations: “The purpose of the rules in this chapter is … to safeguard the

primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren). …” OAC 3301-34-02

It should also be understood that the requirement of the provision of the academic assessment would satisfy any concerns a district might have regarding the adequacy of a child’s “education.”

Declining to provide this Unrequired, additional information would not be cause for denying an excuse from compulsory attendance.

PROOF of PRIOR ACADEMIC HISTORY – First Year of Notification

If this is your FIRST YEAR of home education, you are not required to provide information regarding your child(ren)’s prior whereabouts or prior academic history. Academic assessment to the school district will be provided when/if parents notify for subsequent school years – after the first year – as required by the regulations.

“The parent(s) shall send to the superintendent an academic assessment report of the child for the previous school year at the time of supplying subsequent notification.” OAC 3301-34-04(A).

The key word here is “subsequent.” There is no provision for provision of any prior academic history for families notifying for the first time.

As outlined in the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993 , to all superintendents:

Question 2: May a superintendent request academic assessment information for the previous school year when the student was not in the district (home education, other public school, elsewhere)?

Answer: The standards state that the parent must provide an academic assessment report only when sending their subsequent notification for home education. If the academic assessment report is not sent with the subsequent notification, the superintendent may request, in writing, the missing information. Request for the initial notification, need not include assessment results for the previous year.

Furthermore, in this same memorandum from the Ohio Department of Education to all superintendents:

Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive?

Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements.

Provision of prior academic history – if this is the first year of home education notification, is not required by the home education regulations; therefore, homeschoolers may decline to provide this UNrequired, additional information. An excuse from compulsory attendance may not be denied because this information is not provided.

PROOF OF TEACHER CERTIFICATION NUMBER

Home educators are not required to provide the teacher certification number on the assessor’s form or letter which is provided to the school district in compliance with the requirement for an academic assessment to be filed at the time of subsequent notification. Home educators understand that under the home education regulations, OAC 3301-34 (Rules for Excuses from Compulsory Attendance for Home Education) that they are fully responsible for the education of their children, including the determination that the assessor is fully-qualified and appropriately certificated to review the work of the child(ren) for the prior school year, or to administer a standardized achievement test.

A review of the academic assessment requirements of the home education regulations (OAC 3301-34-04 ) indicates that while three assessment options are outlined and assessment standards specified, there is no requirement that certification number of an assessing or testing teacher be provided. It is specified that the teacher be certified and only certain certifications are applicable. The parent attests to such determination by virtue of his/her signature affirming the information supplied to the superintendent. (OAC 3301-34-(A)(10) ).

Should a school district require this information for the conduct of their responsibilities, it would certainly have access to the statewide database which contains such certification numbers and can ascertain this information for itself.

An excuse from compulsory attendance may not be denied if a parent declines to provide this UNrequired, additional information.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SIGNATURE OF AFFIRMATION

And, lastly, but not no less important, the notification information is signed under a signature of affirmation, similar to an oath assuring that the information provided is accurate to parent’s best knowledge and belief. OAC 3301-34-03(A)(10). The intent of the regulations ( as stated by Diana Fessler, former Butler County SBE representative and member of the 3321.04 Advisory Committee which wrote the current home education regulations and advised SBE in this matter) was that said affirmation would be sufficient and that a parent’s word would be his bond; parents are to be trusted. The regulations were written to specifically safeguard parents’ primary right to provide the education for their child/ren (OAC 3301-34-02) and it is understood that a parent provides the required information, complies with the regulatory obligations imposed without the necessity for the provision of proofs, but by his/her solemn declaration – the signature of affirmation.

Furthermore, the home education regulations meet state’s mandate of compulsory attendance. School districts may not increase, delete from, or alter the home education regulations. In the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993 , to all superintendents :

Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive?

Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements.

No proofs or evidence, other than academic assessment in subsequent years, are required in the notification information provided by parents. An excuse from compulsory attendance may not be denied because a parent declines to provide such UNrequired, additional information.

WHAT TO DO?

“Requests” to Report to a Designee rather than Superintendent by Sue Duncan

Parents have specifically requested that their excusals be signed by the superintendent, as is required by OAC 3301-34-03 (C)(1): “If the superintendent, upon review of the information, determines that it is in compliance with all the requirements set forth in paragraph (A) of this rule, the superintendent shall notify the parent(s) in writing that the child is excused from school attendance for the remainder of the current school year.”

Further, in accordance with the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993 :Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive? Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements. (Could we assume that making a requirement that notification information go to and come from a designee be an addition to the regulations?)

Designees are not authorized under the home education regulations to issue excuses from compulsory attendance; indeed, our regulations are very specific in this regard that the notification must GO TO and (excusal) BE SIGNED BY the superintendent. In point of fact, local superintendents (ie, Kings Local School district) are not authorized to issue such excuses.

Parents are admonished to check to be certain they are filing with the correct superintendent, ascertaining his full name, correct spelling, and full address. They are required to file with the appropriate superintendent so they are in full compliance with the regulations. OAC – 3301-34-03(A) “A parent who elects to provide home education shall supply the following information to the superintendent.” (Can a homeschooler be compelled to disregard the specific requirements of the regulations by an individual school district.?)

Further, superintendent is defined in the home education regulations (OAC 3301-34-01) as:..”the superintendent of schools of the city, county or exempted village school district in which the parent resides.” There is no authorizing language for delegation of this responsibility to any other school official, principal, student services director, manager.

The regulations for issuing excuses from compulsory attendance are clear and in accordance with ORC 3321.04(C) are “binding upon the authorities empowered to issue them.” School districts may not increase, delete from, or alter the home education regulations in any way. (Could this designee issue be considered an alteration?)

Clearly, the Statement of Purpose (OAC 3301-34-02) reflects the purpose of the home education regulations …”to prescribe the conditions governing the issuance of excuses from school attendance under section 3321.04 of the Revised Code, to provide for the consistent application thereof throughout the state by superintendents, and to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren)…” (Could this designee issue be considered – inconsistent application – some district superintendents are providing the excusal under their signatures; others are not?)

Under OAC 3301-34-03(C), it is the responsibility of the superintendent to receive, review for compliance and issue the excuse from compulsory attendance in writing. And,  under ORC 3321.04(A)(2), it is the superintendent’s responsibility to issue an excuse from compulsory attendance for the purpose of home instruction.

Because many superintendents view the notification process as one of “approval” or “permission” they may believe that reviewing home education notifications is a time-consuming process, and therefore delegate it to a designee. (In fact, Adamowski stated that his district has 47,000 students, and 6000 employees and it is common practice to delegate authority.) However, if they fully understood that this process was one which was merely administrative … a checkoff list…they could delegate the checklist procedure (are all the required pieces provided? ) to another and merely sign the excusal when it was determined that all required information was in place…or  could sign the letter requesting missing information, if that were the case. (Note above citation which requires them to provide excuse or ask for missing information in writing…OAC 3301-34-03(C)(1)(2). )

Is an excuse signed by a designee valid? For example, what if a homeschooler moves to another district mid-year and wishes their excuse transferred to the new district; or is stopped for “truancy?”

Can a superintendent delegate this responsibility to anyone he wishes – giving him/her full authority over home education matters – in the case of a principal…for only a very limited number of children. What kind of experience (how conversant?) with the regulations might individual school principals have? How does this provide for “consistent application by superintendents?” Could this practice – which might be harmful to homeschoolers in its inconsistency, the lack of experience and knowledge of the principal (or other designee) causing undue hardship with respect to the notification process, be illegitimate since it abrogates the purposes of the Statement of Purpose of the home education regulations: (OAC 3301-34-02) “The purpose of the rules of this chapter is to prescribe conditions governing the issuance of excuses from school attendance under Section 3321.04 of the Revised Code, to provide for the consistent application thereof throughout the state by superintendents and to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren). Home education must be in accordance with the law.”

(1) the prescribed conditions require that the parent provide notification to the appropriate party, the superintendent. (OAC 3301-34-03(A)); the term “superintendent is specifically defined in the regulations (OAC 3301-34-01);

(2) providing information to a designee who is a principal in one district, to a designee who is a student services director in another, to a administrative secretary in another, to a supt. in yet another district, is not consistent application BY SUPERINTENDENTS;

(3) compelling a parent to provide information to a designee not authorized under the regulations to provide a “legal” excuse, and thereby creating issues of illegitimacy (and consequent hardship) should the parent move to another district, as well as issues of inconsistent application of the law, exposing the parent to ignorance of the regulations by a designee and thus consequence challenges, etc. does not safeguard a parent’s primary right under the regulations. In does, in fact, imperil it.

(4) Home education must be in accordance with the law; one may presume that the “law” does not only relate to the obligations placed upon the parent but applies to superintendents as well.

Did the 3321.04 Advisory Committee, which informed SBE with respect to the home education regulations, intend for this to be delegated task and authority? (Not according to Diana Fessler, who is a former SBE member and was on the State Board Advisory Committee which wrote the current regulations.) She states: “County, exempted village, or city superintendents are the only ones who have jurisdiction in the area of home education. Designees, principals, local superintendents, etc. do not have any authority to excuse children from compulsory attendance laws. Parents are required by the regulations to correspond with the appropriate superintendent.” (Home Education: Answers for Ohio Parents, Diana Fessler, p. 51)

WHO TO NOTIFY – Superintendent or Designee ?

Some school districts have consistently required that homeschoolers notify the designee of the superintendent, the Director of Office of Special Services, a local principal, school manager, or other school official. However, the home education regulations are quite specific in this regard and require under OAC 3301-34-03(A) that notification of intention to home educate must be made to the appropriate superintendent. “A parent who elects to provide home education shall supply the following information to the superintendent.” Homeschoolers are not permitted to notify a designee; in fact, it is incumbent upon them in fulfillment of their obligations to notify the appropriate superintendent only. We understand that the superintendent may delegate certain tasks within his office; however, he may not delegate his responsibilities. Neither may a home educator be compelled to disregard the home education regulations and notify a designee in lieu of the appropriate superintendent.

Did the 3321.04 Advisory Committee, which informed SBE with respect to the home education regulations, intend for this to be delegated task and authority? Not according to Diana Fessler, former District #3 representative of the State Board Of Education, member of the 3321.04 Advisory Committee which developed the home education regulations and author of _Home Education: Answers for Ohio Parents_, page 51: “County, exempted village, or city superintendents are the only ones who have jurisdiction in the area of home education. Designees, principals. local superintendents, etc., do not have any authority to excuse children from the compulsory attendance laws. Parents are required by the regulations to correspond with the appropriate superintendents.”

Designees are not authorized under the home education regulations to issue excuses from compulsory attendance; indeed, our regulations are very specific in this regard that the notification must GO TO and (excusal) BE SIGNED BY the superintendent. In point of fact, local superintendents (ie, Kings Local School district) are not authorized to issue such excuses.

Further, superintendent is defined in the home education regulations (OAC 3301-34-01) as:..”the superintendent of schools of the city, county or exempted village school district in which the parent resides.” There is no authorizing language for delegation of this responsibility to any other school official, principal, student services director, manager.

The regulations for issuing excuses from compulsory attendance are clear and in accordance with ORC 3321.04(C) are “binding upon the authorities empowered to issue them.” Under OAC 3301-34-03(C), it is the responsibility of the superintendent to receive, review for compliance and issue the excuse from compulsory attendance in writing. And, under ORC 3321.04(A)(2), it is the superintendent’s responsibility to issue an excuse from compulsory attendance for the purpose of home instruction.

Further, in accordance with the Ohio Department of Education Questions and Answers Regarding Home Education, June, 1993 :Question 13: Are the requirements in Rule 3301-34-03 just minimum standards that local districts may make more restrictive? Answer: No. These rules of the State Board carry the same effect as law, and school districts may not add to these requirements.

Clearly, the Statement of Purpose (OAC 3301-34-02) reflects the purpose of the home education regulations …”to prescribe the conditions governing the issuance of excuses from school attendance under section 3321.04 of the Revised Code, to provide for the consistent application thereof throughout the state by superintendents, and to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren)…” (Could this designee issue be considered – inconsistent application – some district superintendents are providing the excusal under their signatures; others are not?)

Because many superintendents view the notification process as one of “approval” or “permission” they may believe that reviewing home education notifications is a time-consuming process, and therefore delegate it to a designee. However, if they fully understood that this process was one which was merely administrative … a checkoff list…they could delegate the checklist procedure (are all the required pieces provided? ) to another and merely sign the excusal when it was determined that all required information was in place…or could sign the letter requesting missing information, if that were the case. (Note above citation which requires them to provide excuse or ask for missing information in writing…OAC 3301-34-03(C)(1)(2). )

Is an excuse signed by a designee valid? For example, what if a homeschooler moves to another district mid-year and wishes their excuse transferred to the new district; or is stopped for “truancy?”

Can a superintendent delegate this responsibility to anyone he wishes – giving him/her full authority over home education matters – in the case of a principal…for only a very limited number of children. What kind of experience (how conversant?) with the regulations might individual school principals have? How does this provide for “consistent application by superintendents?” Could this practice – which might be harmful to homeschoolers in its inconsistency, the lack of experience and knowledge of the principal (or other designee) causing undue hardship with respect to the notification process, be illegitimate since it abrogates the purposes of the Statement of Purpose of the home education regulations: (OAC 3301-34-02) “The purpose of the rules of this chapter is to prescribe conditions governing the issuance of excuses from school attendance under Section 3321.04 of the Revised Code, to provide for the consistent application thereof throughout the state by superintendents and to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren). Home education must be in accordance with the law.

CONSIDER:

(1) the prescribed conditions require that the parent provide notification to the appropriate party, the superintendent. (OAC 3301-34-03(A)); the term “superintendent is specifically defined in the regulations (OAC 3301-34-01);

(2) providing information to a designee who is a principal in one district, to a designee who is a student services director in another, to a administrative secretary in another, to a supt. in yet another district, is not consistent application BY SUPERINTENDENTS;

(3) compelling a parent to provide information to a designee not authorized under the regulations to provide a “legal” excuse, and thereby creating issues of illegitimacy (and consequent hardship) should the parent move to another district, as well as issues of inconsistent application of the law, exposing the parent to ignorance of the regulations by a designee and thus consequence challenges, etc. does not safeguard a parent’s primary right under the regulations. In does, in fact, imperil it.

(4) Home education must be in accordance with the law; one may presume that the “law” does not only relate to the obligations placed upon the parent but applies to superintendents as well.

Further, it is receipt in the office of the superintendent only of the notification information which begins the 14-day compliance/non-compliance clock. (OAC 3301-34-03 (C) It does not begin, as has been asserted by some districts, upon receipt of or forwarding to the Office of Special Services. Homeschoolers should continue to notify the superintendent and communications with the school district should be made to the superintendent, as required by the regulations. All original communication should be directed to the superintendent; it is certainly permissible to copy all such communications AFTER notification to the designee as well.

Homeschoolers should always send communications to the district by certified mail, return receipt requested. This provides you with proof of receipt in the superintendent’s office so that you may begin observing the required 14-calendar day count. It is not recommended that you make personal appearances in the district offices to deliver home education notifications.

WHAT TO DO? Send all communications to the person designated in the regulations – the superintendent.

WHO SIGNS YOUR EXCUSAL LETTER?
Superintendents may delegate certain tasks; however, they may not delegate their responsibilities. It is the responsibility under OAC 3301-34-03(C) to receive, review for compliance and issue the excuse from compulsory attendance IN WRITING. It is the superintendent’s responsibility under ORC 3321.04(A)(2) to issue an excuse from compulsory attendance for the purpose of home instruction. ONLY certain specified parties, county, exempted village or city superintendents, have authority under the home education regulations. Designees of the superintendent do not have the authority to issue excuses from compulsory attendance.

Further, “All excuses provided for in divisions (A) and (B) of this section shall be in writing and shall show the reason for the excusing the child. A copy thereof shall be sent to the person in charge of the child.” The superintendent must provide this excuse; as a homeschooler you are required to retain this excuse from compulsory  attendance for your records.

Your excusal letter should be signed by your superintendent as part of his regulatory obligations. It is appropriate that you should expect such signature of
the superintendent and not accept the signature of a designee.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO?


(1) If you receive a notification signed by the designee, write to the superintendent (cc’ing to designee) and request that your excusal be signed by the authority required under the Home Education Regulations. Remember, under OAC3301-34-02, Statement of Purpose – “Home education must be in accordance with the law.” One presumes this means BOTH home educators and school officials tasked by administrative code, namely, the superintendent.
(Be sure to send ALL communications to your school district, certified mail, return receipt requested.)

(2) Cite the regulations specifically with respect to having your superintendent sign the excusal.

Remember: Yes, this may be inconvenient and bothersome. Yes, you have an excuse in hand, why rock the boat? The more often you decide NOT to assert your rights under the regulations, the more unnecessary authority over homeschooling you cede to the school district and the more our homeschooling freedoms are eroded…little by little.

Take a stand; respectfully, calmly, politely assert that the superintendent has a statutory obligation to provide you with an excuse from compulsory attendance. (When you write your letters, please do not copy the language here verbatim; you are welcome to use the quotes and citations, but use your own words. Form letters have very little effect.) And, the more homeschoolers in your district who stand together, the more likely you will achieve the desired result.

Copyrighted – Susan M. Duncan, January, 2001
Do not reprint for publication without prior permission

Truancy by Sue Duncan

Homeschoolers are being threatened with truancy by the school district if they do not attend school while the homeschool notification is being processed by the district. The reason being that they are not excused yet and therefore, are still under the compulsory attendance statute (ORC 3321.04) which states that the district has an obligation to know that students between the ages of 6 years and 18 years are enrolled in a program.

Home education notification, appropriately filed by the parent, satisfies the district’s mandate under compulsory attendance statute. The district is advised  where the child/ren will be and that the child/ren will be in a program provided by the parents, instructed at home. The State Board of Education adopted the  rules which parents and superintendents are required to follow in order to homeschool and such parental right is specifically protected and stated in the Purpose statement  of the regulations, OAC 3301-34-02: “The purpose of the rules in this chapter is to … safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren).”

If there are issues of non-compliance with a notification, the superintendent and the parent are provided with a time period and process with which to resolve these issues. (OAC 3301-34-03(C)(1)(2) ). Since they would be issues of missing information, supplying this missing data should not be cause for considering a child truant. Further, the district should not assume the parent will not overcome any issues of non-compliance; and therefore, the district should not have cause for considering a child truant merely based on either missing data or any other resolvable issue of non-compliance.

Truancy is about attendance. It extends from ORC 3321.04, the compulsory attendance statute. It is about compelling attendance, not education; therefore, there appears to be no educational reason for pursuing truancy threats against home educators. Threats of truancy are not about the adequacy of an educational program; therefore, suggestions by districts that home educators must be “in school” until such time as their notification is reviewed and approved by superintendents are not well-reasoned or supported.

Home education notifications are reviewed to see that the required data is in place. This is a clerical, administrative procedure; a check-off list. The superintendent does not make a judgment regarding academic content, quality or adequacy. It is reviewed to see that it is provided. Therefore, none of the information should be of such import, or educational quality, that it would require a child be in attendance at a public school or other such program until such time as a superintendent reviews to see that the information is provided. This can be done while the child is home educating and while the notification is being reviewed for provision of the required data.

There is no starting date stated in the home education regulations. Long-standing, statewide practice is that most homeschoolers notify on/by Day One of their school  district’s new fall term.

Further, the regulations are specific with respect to obligations of the responsibilities and obligations of the parents and the superintendents. If the regulations required a  starting date, or there were penalties for not complying with such, one could believe that they would have been specifically stated. The regulations are specifically ambiguous in this regard, allowing for parental rights. Again, rights which are specifically stated and safeguarded by the home education regulations Statement of Purpose.  (OAC 3301-34-02)

Home education is a legal and equal educational choice in Ohio. It is equivalent to the other 5 choices currently available. Children attending parochial school, for example, are not required to attend public school until such time as their attendance in a parochial, private, community is demonstrated. They are allowed to begin immediately.  Under the equal treatment clauses of the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions, such rights must be accorded to home educators as well upon notification of their intention to home  educate. Special privileges may not be accorded to only one or a few groups.

Further, pursuing parents who have chosen a legal and equal educational option in Ohio, who have notified of their intention to home educate and who have, therefore,  satisfied the obligations with respect to compulsory attendance (and remembering that truancy is NOT about educational quality but attendance), would appear to be a  waste of limited district resources. Diversion of manpower, time, money and focus from legitimate issues of truancy facing a school district would seem to be issues which taxpayers, citizens (which home educating parents are) should be concerned and which should perhaps be brought to the attention of the local school board.

Providing evidence that they have filed a notification of intention to home educate, and therefore have satisfied the state’s interest in knowing where a child, ages 6-18, will be, even if they do not have their excusal from compulsory attendance in hand yet, should be sufficient. Lack of such excuse during the required 14-day compliance review  should not be cause for issuing truancy charges. Parents who have appropriately notified have complied with their obligations; such parental notification  allows the districts to comply with their own statutory obligations.

Further, districts are often remiss in providing home educating parents who are in compliance with letters of excuse from compulsory attendance in a timely manner (within 14 calendar days) as required under the code, OAC 3301-34-03(C)(1). It is unseemly that lack of district compliance should create truancy difficulties for parents who have followed the law in this regard.

Truancy threat of home educators is a wasteful exercise; it serves neither the district’s nor the home educator’s purpose of providing an education for children.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
(1) Write a polite, firm, reasoned letter to the Superintendent. Information has been provided which may aid you as you consider what you shall say to the district in this regard. It is important for home educators to write letters to districts in areas of non-compliance. It serves the purposes of maintaining our own educational freedoms, and of educating the district with respect to THEIR compliance with the regulations. It smoothes the way for homeschoolers coming behind you. Take a stand today.

It is requested that you do NOT copy this information verbatim. Please feel free to use any of the quotes or citations in your letter, but it would be more effective if you would put your thinking into your own words. Form letters are not as effective as individually-created ones. Thank you.

(2) Send with copies to:

(a) School Board (this is critical; they are the supt’s boss and hold the purse strings; it would be important for them to know how the district is utilizing its limited resources. Are they diverting time, money, focus from legitimate district issues by requesting information from home educators which is not only NOT required, but which exceeds the regulations which are binding on the supt. and his office? They need to know how taxpayers and citizens of this district feel about the treatment of families pursuing a legal educational option in Ohio. Remember, you are not only home educators in your city, town, etc., you are taxpayers and citizens! These are your elected officials; your tax dollars pay their salaries…and the superintendent’s !)
(3) If you have notified your district, and it is beyond the 14-day requirement for the superintendent to provide you with an excusal, you should contact your district and politely request that the superintendent comply with the home education regulations, OAC 3301-34-03(C), under which the superintendent has a regulatory burden to provide the home educator, in writing, a notice of excuse from compulsory attendance, within 14 calendar days of receipt of notification of intention to home educate. This is a legal document which the superintendent’s office must provide and which homeschoolers are required to retain for their records. Ask for receipt of the excuse from compulsory attendance by return mail. (Be sure to send ALL correspondence via certified mail, return receipt requested.)

(4) Share this information with homeschoolers in your area. Be sure that they are receiving good, accurate and reliable information. Homeschoolers may find that by advising their district that they will NOT comply with requests that exceed the home education regulations, they are protecting their freedoms AND educating the district.  Let’s begin by becoming educated ourselves.

Rev. 02/01 – S.M. Duncan
Do not reprint without permission

WHAT DO YOU DO? SIMPLE STEPS….MINIMAL COMPLIANCE – Sue Duncan – HS ALERTS

Your school district has sent you a letter (or telephoned you) stating they desire:

  • grade level; or
  • table of contents of your textbooks; or
  • future communications to be with a designee – the principal, student services director, etc.; or
  • the name of the textbook you will be using to teach nuclear fission; or
  • a copy of your high school diploma; or
  • your notification by a certain date; or
  • your academic assessment by a certain date; or
  • their district-created notification “form” – which includes incorrect language- be used; or
  • their newly-created “procedures” be followed; or
  • more information on what you plan to do in algebra…and so on.

OR Their communication – either written or verbal – :

  • threatens you with truancy; or
  • uses words like “permission,” “approval” or “request.”

Well, certainly, many of us dislike rocking the boat – especially if the communication from the school district contains an “approval of your homeschooling request for the  school year.” But consider – when you acquiesce to the illegitimate requests (or language) of a school district, you de-legitimize the home education regulations.

When you fail to act, when you fail to decline to comply with unrequired demands, or do not respond to language which misrepresents the regulations and their intent, you
do several things:

  • * you cede the school district authority and responsibilities not mandated by statute;
  • you create a sense of entitlement in the school district to the “information” requested;
  • you set a precedent;
  • you raise the bar for every other homeschooler in your district, especially those who refuse to comply with illegitimate requests.
  • you lose an opportunity to educate the district with respect to the regulations – their intent or language;
  • you weaken the home education regulations;
  • you reinforce the mythology that homeschooling must be able to be compared with a “traditional” educational options in order to be successful and valid.

Yes…it’s a very difficult act to respond to a school district – to take on that institutional authority with it’s police power (attendance officers and juvenile court system) and  cultural weight. But consider that when you do, you have an opportunity to serve your homeschooling community, to educate the district – and perhaps open a dialog with  them about homescshooling, to preserve the integrity of the home education regulations as written, and to maintain your homeschooling rights and freedoms. No small
thing.

Okay…so WHAT DO YOU DO?

  1. It’s begins with YOU. Become educated – about the regulations, notification and minimal compliance. When homeschoolers KNOW what their rights and responsibilities are, they can feel confident and calm in dealing politely and firmly with their school districts.
  2. Think about the principle of Minimal Compliance – that is, “do nothing more/nothing less than is required under the home education regulations. Doing less places you in jeopardy of being non-compliant and truant; doing more weakens the strength and validity of the regulations.By following this simple idea, you can help maintain your rights to home educate your family in accordance with your own principles and beliefs.
  3. Be sure you have a copy of the home education regulations – OAC 3301-34 Rules for Excuses from Compulsory Attendance for Home Education.  (This is a searchable database.)READ THEM.
  4. Break down what you have been asked; check your copy of the regulations…is the information or action requested/demanded required; is the language appropriate and accurate? If you do not understand the request, or the regulations – DO NOT call the school district. Instead, contact a support group or a home education advocate (not lawyer) you trust. Many support groups have persons available with many years’ experience to help you refute challenges from school districts. Keep this in mind: calling a school district for homeschooling information is like calling Similac corporation with a breast-feeding question.There is a volume of information available from support groups, websites, homeschooling advocates to help you determine an appropriate, reasoned, thoughtful response to the district. (This website contains a great deal of information refuting specific challenges, such as truancy, or provision of unrequired information, dealing with designees, pitfalls of part-time participation, etc. See the CHALLENGES link.)
  5. Determine WHO issued the communication? The superintendent, or a designee. (You might wish to consider the information on this website – under CHALLENGES -Designee). The ONLY person charged in the school district with jurisdiction regarding home education is the superintendent, except in the case of part-time participation and enrollment/placement in the public system. The local school board is able to set policy in this regard only.
  6. If the communication is verbal, politely but firmly respond that you wish any request of the district to be put in writing. Verbal exchanges do not afford the parent (or anyone calling in an official capacity from the district) any protection or preservation of their rights. Neither the parent nor the district has sufficient documentary proof that contact was made, the nature of such contact, nor does verbal contact provide the home educator with documentary protection with respect to her response. ALL communications with your district should be in writing.
  7. Write a polite, firm, reasoned letter to the superintendent of your district and decline to comply with the requests of the district which exceed the regulations. You may also choose to enclose a copy of the actual home education regulations for each person you will be sending this communication. You are provided with a resource to download copies in item (3) above.
  8. Pass information about illegitimate requests or de-legitimizing language (use of words like “approval, “request,” or “permission” ) along to homeschooling families both within your support group and within your school district. Work together to coordinate a community response to illegitimate requests from your school district. (This is your opportunity to educate the school district and protect the integrity of the regulations. Imagine what might happen with their desire for future requests if they receive 25 letters politely but firmly refusing to comply with a demand for unrequired information and explaining why. )
  9. Attend or hold discussions about the home education regulations, notification and minimal compliance. Join email lists, listservs, newsletters or forums which regularly follow homeschooling and issue updates to members regarding issues facing Ohio homeschoolers – local, statewide and/or national. Share this information with other homeschoolers in your community. Be a home educator educator!
  10. ou may wish to consider forwarding copies of any communications you send to the superintendent’s office to the school district’s school board. This is critical; they are the superintendent’s boss and hold the purse strings; it would be important for them to know how the district is utilizing its limited resources. Are they diverting time, money, manpower, focus from legitimate district issues by requesting information from home educators which is not only NOT required, but which exceeds the regulations which are binding on the superintendent and his office? They need to know how taxpayers and citizens of this district feel about the treatment of families pursuing a legal educational option in Ohio. Remember, you are not only home educators in your district, you are taxpayers and citizens! These are your elected officials; your tax dollars pay their salaries…and the superintendent’s !)
  11. If you think it necessary, request time before the school board to open a dialog about home education. Perhaps not surprisingly, the school board focuses on issues more generally around traditional educational issues; it would be an opportunity to present a “real face” to homeschooling as opposed to the mythology and misstatement surrounding it. You might find an ally on the school board that you can work with BEFORE issues arise; or to whom you might be able to turn privately to turn aside challenges after they appear.
  12. Ask your local library to include factual, accurate homeschooling information on challenges in the reference section of their facilities. Consider placing information in the front of library books on homeschooling – with permission of the library.
  13. When challenges do appear…face them. Do not turn to an expert or organization to do it FOR YOU. Certainly, they can be helpful, provide your with insight and information. But take a stand for yourself, your family and your community. When we chose homeschooling we did so because we felt WE were the experts on our families – no one knew more than we did about what was right or appropriate for us. And so it is with our own homeschooling freedoms. WE are the ones to take up the task of safeguarding our rights and freedoms for our families.

Take a stand; face the challenge: become aware, informed and proactive!

Copyrighted – Susan M. Duncan
Do not reprint for publication without prior permission
May, 2001