This month, the Ohio Department of Education has started the process of preparing to review our regulations. Part of that preparation includes the department accepting comments from stakeholders at their site concerning Ohio Administrative Code, Chapter 3301-34 Excuses from Compulsory Attendance for Home Education. These rules have served my family and many others well since 1989. This is the first time since the rules and regulations were enacted that the Ohio Department of Education has facilitated this type of formal review. This code was written in 1989 and it amplifies the law that governs Ohio homeschooling, Ohio Revised Code 3321.04. The code clearly states Its purpose:
The purpose of the rules in 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 law.
I am encouraged by the fact that many individual homeschoolers and local homeschool groups in Ohio are united in recommending that the Ohio Department of Education keep our regulations as they are. After the Ohio Department of Education collects the stakeholder comments, they will gather and pass them along to the Ohio State Board of Education Capacity Committee for review. The committee will then make recommendations to the State School Board as to make changes or not.
Since first hearing of the review, I have said that I am hoping for the best, but I’ll be prepared for the worst. Some in our community feel that the ODE will be suggesting changes. It isn’t that I don’t believe this, I just can’t document that they are intending to do so. In fact, in this Columbus Dispatch blog post, Jennifer Smith Richards writes that over 1200 responses had come in by July 19th and that an Ohio Department of Education spokesperson stated that despite the warnings by some groups, there are no specific plans to change our laws.
Those who know me well understand that when it comes to research, I prefer to document the information I’m studying, especially when it might affect my rights or those of others. Before children, I was a Biblical research student and I learned the importance of finding a chapter and verse, understanding where it originated, the context it was used and who it was written to, for myself instead of relying on someone else’s interpretation. Over the years, I’ve applied this same method of investigation to other areas of my life.
As a homeschooler, I’ve learned the importance of knowing my rights and responsibilities as well as, if not better than others so that if someone subtly tries to change a right, I will be able to recognize the change. I certainly look to experts when I need them, but when I hear speculation that might affect me, I want to know where it originated and if I need to simply watch it or begin taking action. If it can’t be documented, I will still keep watching, but I don’t move until I’m sure.
These days most of us are familiar with weather terminology, especially here in Oho where we face the occasional tornado. I would compare our situation as being under a State School Board review watch. We should be prepared as conditions are favorable and could result in a request for changes, but no documented changes have been shared by the many SBE watchers. If we move to a documented warning, I am sure that we will be prepared, remain calm and be able to stand together to protect our freedoms with other individuals around our state.