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The New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDE) has failed in its attempt to prevent homeschool families from operating as a private school.
In 1998, the Fluhr family's Our Lady of Good Counsel Academy (OLGCA) asked the NHDE for approval as a private school. The NHDE was initially skeptical because they knew that OLGCA was a woman teaching her own children in her own home. HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville, however, persuaded them that state law and regulations allow a homeschool family to operate a state-approved private school. Therefore, OLGCA was approved.
Approval was renewed uneventfully in 2001. In 2004, however, NHDE denied OLGCA's request for renewal. They refused to be candid about their reasons for denial, and their explanations sounded suspiciously like pretexts.
When phone calls and letters failed to persuade NHDE to follow the law, HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff filed a formal grievance on behalf of OLGCA. At the hearing before the grievance committee of the New Hampshire Non-Public School Advisory Council, representatives of the NHDE finally were candid about their reason for denial: the family was homeschooling. Despite Woodruff's vigorous explanation that the law permits a homeschool family to operate as a private school, the grievance committee sided with the NHDE. OLGCA appealed.
At the September 20 appeal hearing, HSLDA attorney Darren Jones presented overwhelming evidence that OLGCA had done all the law requires for renewal of approval. The hearing officer agreed. When he issued his written recommendation in OLGCA's favor a few days later, he noted that the NHDE had approved the school twice before, and nothing had changed since then to justify denial.
On October 10, the Commissioner of Education, on behalf of the NHDE, raised the white flag. He accepted the hearing officer's decision.
The saga appears to be over. The trail has been blazed for other New Hampshire homeschool families to operate under the private school option. Families who follow in the footsteps of the Fluhrs and OLGCA should not encounter as many problems.
We would be happy to advise any member family who wants to explore the possibility of operating as a private school rather than as a homeschool. While the requirements are significant, it might be preferable in certain situations.