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West Virginia

May 29, 2002
Bevins, et al. v. Calhoun County School Board
School Board policy perverts the law

Filed: April 11, 2000, Calhoun County.

Nature of Case: Four families have filed a suit for declaratory judgment regarding three home education policies of the school board. The policies challenged are as follows: 1) the right of the superintendent to reject narrative reviews from certified teachers, 2) the right to require an oral defense before the school board of the plan of instruction, and 3) the right to criminally prosecute parents whose notice to home school is rejected. During the course of the litigation, it was discovered that the district promulgated a document entitled "Home Instruction Guidelines," which contains half a dozen violations of state law. We moved the court for leave to amend the complaint to include the recent "Guidelines," and were given until Sept. 26th to file.

After the court appearance granting our motion to amend (September 6, 2000) and a letter to adverse counsel outlining the illegalities of the "Guidelines," opposing counsel responded by deleting a number of offensive provisions. What remained, however, was the requirement that home schoolers "describe how the West Virginia Instructional Goals and Objectives (IGO) will be addressed." Mike Farris called this a "declaration of war" and devoted considerable energy to developing a combat strategy. We considered a separate suit in federal court, as well as taking the depositions of several state board of education officials in the state case.

Opposing counsel then sent a letter to the court on August 7, 2001, advising that the state legislature's recent failure to amend a home school statute regarding the portfolio review provision is evidence that the legislature agrees with the superintendent in the case at bar. HSLDA responded by advising the court that it may be presumed that the legislature did not amend the statute because every other superintendent in the state is properly applying the rules of statutory construction and is not insisting upon the pre-approval of certified teachers for portfolio review.

HSLDA dismissed its complaint against the school's policy to criminally prosecute home schoolers who are not confirmed by the school board. Therefore, the only issue is whether the superintendent has the right to reject narrative reviews from certified teachers he has not agreed upon.

The court heard cross-motions for summary judgment on Friday, March 9, 2001.

Status: The judge granted our motion for summary judgment on April 29, 2002. He incorporated our statutory construction arguments into his opinion, agreeing that the county superintendent has no authority to reject narratives from certified teachers.

Last Updated: May 29, 2002.

 Other Resources

Bevins Decision (pdf)