Tennessee Lawsuit Challenges Degree Requirement
HSLDA has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Tennessee, challenging a state law requirement that home school parents possess a baccalaureate degree in order to teach their children who are in grades 9–12.
HSLDA is representing five families from various parts of Tennessee who have been threatened with prosecution for not having baccalaureate degrees after the state commissioner of education refused to grant any of them exemptions from the college degree requirement. The case, Floyd v. Smith, challenges the degree requirement and also challenges the refusal by the state commissioner to grant exemptions from the state law, as the law itself allows. In other words, the law provides a waiver for parents who cannot meet the requirement, but the commissioner of education refuses to grant it to most home schoolers.
The Crites case, which HSLDA unsuccessfully litigated last year, made similar challenges in state court. In Crites, the Tennessee Court of Appeals voted 2–1 to uphold the law, and the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
This lack of success in the state courts prompted HSLDA to file the Floyd lawsuit in federal court. By God's grace, the case was assigned to Judge Thomas Hull who sits in Greeneville, Tennessee, the northeastern part of the state. Judge Hull was the federal judge who ruled in favor of Christian parents in the well-publicized "Tennessee Textbook" case (Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools), which Mike Farris worked on several years ago. Judge Hull is sympathetic to claims dealing with religious liberty.
Even after the lawsuit was filed in early September, one of the five school districts involved threatened to move forward and prosecute the family in its district. HSLDA attorneys jumped into action and stopped the prosecutions. At this point, the five families are continuing to home school their children although they lack either college degrees or statutory waivers. The Tennessee Attorney General's Office is defending the law and the commissioner of education in this case. Please pray for the federal court, that Judge Hull would rule in favor of the home school families in this case.
HSLDA Challenges West Virginia Testing Requirement
Ken and Barbara Null of Gay, West Virginia, were concerned about their son’s academic progress after he finished second grade in their local public school. Although Brent had been promoted each year of his three years in public school and had received average grades, he could not read.
Ken and Barbara Null decided to try home schooling. Two years later Brent’s test scores dramatically improved. His reading score on a standardized test increased from the 28th to the 55th percentile. Overall, Brent's composite score on the standardized achievement test was at the 38th percentile.
Ken and Barbara were pleased with their son’s dramatic progress. But according to West Virginia’s home school law, it wasn’t good enough, and the local school officials threatened to prosecute the Nulls for truancy.
West Virginia requires home school students to achieve a composite 40th percentile on annual standardized achievement tests. The first year a student's scores fall below the 40th percentile, he is put on probation. If the scores do not reach the 40th percentile or higher by the following year, parents are required to re-enroll their child in a public school.
Michael Farris criticized the law as an unreasonable standard in this situation. Farris said that the Null’s lawsuit “challenges the legitimacy of a law which forces Brent to leave a system of education in which he is clearly improving and to return to a system which, for Brent, failed to provide an adequate education.”
After HSLDA filed the federal lawsuit, the local school district continued its efforts to prosecute the Nulls for truancy in state court. HSLDA intervened and stopped the prosecution.
At this point, it is unknown when the case will come to trial.