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Back on Track in West Warwick
Staff Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole answers questions and assists member with legal issues regarding homeschooling in Rhode Island. He is married and the father of three small children.
HSLDA Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole helped to facilitate a resolution after five families did not receive an acknowledgment from the West Warwick school district for their homeschool programs in October 2012.
In the fall of 2012, several families submitted their notification of intent at the beginning of the school year, but instead of receiving an approval letter, they received a form requesting additional information. The requested material, including a “general education plan” describing curriculum, was not required by Rhode Island law or West Warwick’s homeschool policy.
Rhode Island law allows each school district to create its own homeschool policy. While a few homeschool policies do ask for curriculum descriptions, many, including West Warwick’s policy, do not. No school official has the authority to request additional information beyond what is listed in the district’s homeschool policy.
After the homeschool families received the request for information, they immediately contacted Home School Legal Defense Association and Rhode Island state leaders to discuss whether or not they needed to submit material requested by the school.
In the meantime, several homeschool families, as well as Rhode Island homeschool leaders Amy Brock of RIGHT and Bev Burgess of EnrichRI, met with the assistant superintendent to discuss the newly implemented homeschool policy.
Unfortunately, later that same evening, the school committee refused to consider the notices of five homeschool families in the West Warwick district. These families had complied with the homeschool policy, but refused to submit the additional information arbitrarily requested by the school district.
A school committee’s refusal to consider homeschool notices can carry significant repercussions. Because Rhode Island law requires homeschool families to receive “approval” from their local school committee, families who are not considered in a timely fashion may find themselves facing investigations for educational neglect or a criminal prosecution for violating the compulsory education law.
After two of the five families were able find a resolution with the school district, Attorney Kamakawiwoole advised the other families on their response to the school district. He contacted the school on behalf of one of these families, requesting that their homeschool program be acknowledged since they had completely complied with West Warwick’s homeschool policy.
Another family chose to present their case for acknowledgement personally, in front of the West Warwick school committee. They received a highly favorable response from the committee and the West Warwick superintendent. The next day, the superintendent admitted that the curriculum description was not required under the homeschool policy, and that there was no reason that these families should be denied formal acknowledgement. All three families were approved by the school committee at its next meeting.
HSLDA’s work in West Warwick illuminates the core principles of American government—that no official is above the law. HSLDA was there to protect the rights of West Warwick homeschoolers when the demand of the local school authority exceeded their limits. Your membership with HSLDA enables us to continue to protect homeschool freedoms in local towns, such as West Warwick, and in the nation.