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May 28, 2013

West Cape May Wants to Review Homeschool Books


Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in New Jersey. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

The West Cape May school board has asked the New Jersey School Board Association to adopt an official policy that local schools “should be responsible for making determinations of instructional ‘equivalency’ by reviewing the materials that parents of home schooled children submit on an annual basis.”

Under New Jersey law, only courts are empowered to pronounce judgment over a family’s homeschool program. It seems that the West Cape May school board wants school systems to don black robes and start acting like judges. And turn the clock back to the “Dark Ages” for homeschoolers.

Failed Policy

In 1997, New Jersey Education Commissioner Leo Klagholtz unilaterally announced a new policy that homeschool parents must prove to the satisfaction of their local school system that their homeschool program was equivalent to public school education. The policy caused an eruption of confusion, controversy and turmoil.

When Klagholtz resigned in 1999, two members of the Education Network of Christian Homeschoolers of New Jersey board and HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff met with a representative of David Hespe, the new commissioner. Woodruff and the ENOCH board members asked for a thorough revision of the department’s policy in collaboration with representatives of the homeschool community.

Delivering Relief

In 2000 this resulted in the publication of a new policy, often referred to simply as the “Homeschool Questions and Answers.” The new policy lined up well with state law and precedent established in court cases. And families were no longer told they must submit information to school boards to prove their program was equivalent. There was a huge collective sigh of relief across the state.

After education advocate Carolee Adams brought the West Cape May proposal to the attention of HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott A. Woodruff, he contacted the office of the executive director of the school board association and expressed his concerns. He followed up with a long conversation with the legislative liaison for the West Cape May school board explaining how the proposal would resurrect the controversial and long-dead Klagholtz policy.

When the time came for the school board association to take up the West Cape May proposal, they totally ignored it. The meeting ended with the proposal receiving no attention at all. It is no longer a concern for the homeschool community. But it is a reminder that there are still people in high positions who would jump at the chance to bring homeschooling under their power.

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