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
Okay…so WHAT DO YOU DO?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. )
- 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!
- 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 !)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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