Requiring Additional Information On Curriculum Outlines, Or Resource Lists by Sue Duncan
The home education regulations under the notification section (OAC 3301-34-03) set forth the information which home educators are required to supply to their school districts. This extent of this information is clear and it may not be exceeded in any regard by the district. The school district may not make rules, policies, procedures, create forms or make requests which go beyond the requirements of the home education regulations. Home educators are required to comply with the regulations as written, so are the superintendents.
OAC 3301-34-03(A)(6) requires: ” Brief outline of the intended curriculum for the current year. Such outline is for informational purposes only. ” The outline must be provided; however, the format and the depth and content is up to the parent’s discretion. “Brief” : short in duration and length. The outline is not intended to be specific as to the FORM provided but rather that it demonstrate that a plan has been formulated; its intent is to inform the superintendent that the parent has read the code, understands the code and has planned for the academic year. As long as the outline is supplied – no matter what the format, whether in a systematic listing, a web arrangement, a narrative, etc., the parent has fulfilled their obligation under the home education regulations.
OAC 3301-34-03A)(7) requires: “List of textbooks, correspondence courses, commercial curricula, OR other basic teaching materials that the parent intended sot use for home education. Such list is for informational purposes only.” The critical word here is OR…parents may decide which, and/or whether to include any of the suggested items. Textbooks, or photocopies of tables of content are not required under the regulations. Further, the district may not mandate that some textbooks or materials are not acceptable. Again, the information is provided to demonstrate that the parent has an educational plan in mind. The district does not make a judgment regarding its quality, adequacy or appropriateness, merely looks to see that it is in place.
According to Diana Fessler, current Ohio Senate Education Committee member, former District #3 State Board of Education member and member of the 3321.04 Advisory Committee which developed the home education regulations, and author of _Home Education: Answers for Ohio Parents_, Page 38, Question 17. “The content and format of the brief outline is left to the discretion of the parents.” Since this refers to the “For informational only purposes” reference of this notification item, one can assume this same parental discretion accrues to the resource listing as well.
Further, according to Diana Fessler,_Home Education: Answers for Ohio Parents_, page 40, Question 19, “What is intended by the phrase “for informational purposes only?” It was the intent of the 3321.04 Advisory Committee [which created the home education regulations and advised the SBE in this matter] that a judgment would not be made whether the content of the teaching material selected by the parents is appropriate for the education of the child. The brief outline and list of teaching materials are only provided to show the superintendent that the parents have given considered thought to teaching materials. This information is neutral information that is not subject to discussion or debate.”
The outline (or narrative) or resource listing provided is not open to review by the district for academic adequacy, quality or appropriateness. It is merely provided to “inform,” to tell, what you intend to do in your program. It merely demonstrates that you have planned for the academic year (curriculum outline) and what you intend to use to implement your plan (resource listing).
Consider that even if this information is supplied, it would NOT be adequate in any event to allow a superintendent to carefully and fully assess the adequacy, appropriateness or merit of your home education program. How could a superintendent with such minimal information make this determination adequately to justify the district’s claim that it’s task is to ensure an adequate education. Remember…notification is about ATTENDANCE, not educational adequacy. (You might wish to read the discussion under the What to do if your District Challenges You link – Truancy: A Gymnastic Approach to Considering a Homeschooler Truant.)
If there is any regard in which the information which is required is not supplied, that is, is missing, the superintendent has a burden to notify the parent/s IN WRITING within 14 calendar days of receipt of the notification of intention to home educate, the SPECIFIC regard in which the notification information is incomplete. Incomplete information is missing information – it is not additional information; it is not expansion, augmentation or increase of information already provided. For example, if a parent supplies a curriculum which lists the subject area: Mathematics, Algebra 1. That is provided information as required. The district is precluded from requiring the parent to supply information from the table of contents, or fuller descriptions of the areas within Algebra 1 which may be covered. [Per Ms. Fessler, page 52-53, Question 35, "...(this incomplete information is missing information and not additional information);..."]
If the district is dissatisfied with the length or content or format design of a curriculum plan, for example, that would not be considered missing information since it was supplied by the parent under this Rule; the fact that the district finds it in some way insufficient is not the issue; its required provision or lack thereof is the central issue for the district to determine. The parents have full responsibility under the regulations to provide the education for their child(ren) and to create an educational plan in this regard; the composition and manner in which they choose to provide this information is their choice as part of their safeguarded parental right.
Again, I would refer you to the Department of Education, June, 1993 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.
The superintendent has a regulatory burden under OAC 3301-34-03(C) to notify the parent IN WRITING within 14 calendar days of receipt of the notification information whether it is in compliance or not -OAC 3301-34-03(C)(1)(2). If the parent does not receive written notification accordingly, and they have proof of receipt of this information in the office of the superintendent (e.g., in the form of the certified mail return receipt -green card) they may safely assume that their notification is in compliance.
MOST IMPORTANTLY – Keep in mind: you are NOT asking permission, seeking approval or making a request. You are NOTIFYING of your intention to home educate. By doing so, you enable the superintendent to fulfill his statutory obligation of knowing where each child of compulsory school age is ATTENDING in his district. You are not providing the vital statistics of your name, address, child’s name, date of birth for approval. They are merely data. You are not agreeing to certain subject matter, 900 hours of home education, assuring minimal educational background, or affirming the information by your signature for any approval. These are simply agreements – assurances – by you to the district. No proof is required; again, these are not up for any review or judgment. The curriculum outline and the resource list are information only…to demonstrate that you have planned for the academic year and what you intend to use to implement your plan. They are not provided for judgment of academic quality, adequacy or appropriateness. Therefore, none of the information should require an approval process – nor was such “approval” ever intended. This is an administrative checkoff procedure.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Start with Items 2, 3, 4 and 6.
(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. http://onlinedocs.andersonpublishing.com/oac/ (This is a searchable database.) There is also a downloadable copy on the HSalerts website. 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.
Be sure the “request” has come to you within the regulatory 14 days. Under the home education regulations, superintendents have 14 days from receipt of your notification in their offices in which to provide you with WRITTEN communication that your notification is deficient. (OAC 3301-34-03-(C)(2)). However, it must be deficient in the respect that you have not supplied REQUIRED information; they may not ask for additional information. After 14 calendar days, you are entitled to your excuse from compulsory attendance regardless of any legal deficiencies and definitely in the case of requests for unrequired information.
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 WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DISTRICT CHALLENGES YOU link.)
(5) 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.
(6) 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. You are welcome to use the citations provided on this website; however, it is requested that you use your own choice of language since this will enable YOU to fully understand the issue and present it in your own words to your superintendent.
(7). 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. )
(8) 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!
(9) You 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 !)
(10) Ask the 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.
(11) 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!
Prepared and Submitted by Susan M. DuncanÓ January, 2000
Please do not reprint for publication or distribution without prior permission.