Does county government or school boards have jurisdiction over whether parents can homeschool their children?
Recently the issue of homeschooling surfaced in the news again this time in the state of Virginia. A policy change is forcing a parent to justify their practice of homeschooling their children. The current instance involves religious preference but it is not about religious training or beliefs but whether school boards have the jurisdiction to impose such restrictions. The current shift came from a county school board which instituted a new policy in which it appears to attack parents’ rights to homeschool their children if they so choose. Homeschooling is not for everyone but in some cases homeschooling children has been successful much to the detriment of school systems.
I agree there should be requirements to ensure that kids who are homeschooled have the right education to help them succeed in society. In many if not all cases these individuals must be able to pass certain tests to validate their educational training. A quote by one of our founding fathers in 1791 puts the responsibility of educating their children on the parents. James Wilson on lectures on Law 1791 made the following statement:
“It is the duty of parents to maintain their children decently…; to protect them according to the dictates of prudence; and to educate them according to the suggestions of a judicious and zealous regard for their usefulness, their respectability and happiness.”
According to an organization titled Coalition for Responsible Home Education it is estimated that around two million children are homeschooled across the country today and they expect that number to grow in the coming years. The question is why is this trend on the increase? There can be several reasons not the least of which parents sometimes feels they can provide a better education for their children then the school system/district in which they live. The practice of homeschooling is legal in all 50 states with varying requirements for oversight. The question which begs to be answered is why a school board in Virginia is imposing a policy against the practice of homeschooling when it is a legal activity. Doing research with regards to requirements for homeschooling in the state of Virginia have requirements for assessments with some exceptions.
The current statute in Virginia Va. Code Ann.$22.1-254.1 states “instruction by parents is an acceptable alternative form of education” and that parents “may elect to provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance.” With this statute in place it appears the policy of the school board in challenging or requiring a parent to apply for approval to homeschool their children is in violation of the law as it currently stands. There are some requirements in place parents must meet in their decision to homeschool their children and given if these requirements are met this practice and the restriction the school board involved is placing lacks merit. I do not know what decision will ultimately be made in this situation but the rights of parents as identified by law in all states should not be violated. In a response from public criticism of the policy the school board has voted down the new policy with one more vote to be taken. This kind of policy regardless of where it would be put in place has no place legal or otherwise to come between parents and the education of their children.
The parents involved in this current homeschooling issue have sought the help of the Home School Legal Defense association. This is a non-profit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. The mission of this organization taken from their website is provided below:
“To preserve and advance the fundamental, God-given, constitutional right of parents and others legally responsible for their children to direct their education. In so doing, we rely on two fundamental freedoms—parental rights and religious freedom. We advocate for these freedoms in the courtrooms, before government officials, and in the public arena. Additionally, we assist other educational organizations in similar activities, where possible and appropriate.”
It understood that there are varying requirements involving homeschooling across our country and there needs to be some consistency but the rights of parents should never be violated nor the legal right to homeschool in every state. It is important to ensure that all children receive a proper education which involves being prepared to enter society or even college. Today many subjects have changed in the way they are taught or not even taught at all. History should be taught the way it happened and not have it diminished by ignoring the reason some events took place. In addition contributions of individuals which had an impact on the beginning of our country have been altered. Our education system is one of the best if not the best in the world but changes have taken place especially in some textbooks which are not for the better as identified in the previous sentence.
It is hoped that the parents involved in the current situation in Virginia will win their case and be a benchmark for other school boards to think twice about imposing restrictions which are inappropriate. Parents should not have to justify their decision to homeschool or even be required to get permission or blessing from any school board.
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