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September 23, 2008

Restrictive Guantanamo Bay Homeschool Policy Abandoned

This past school year, U.S. military families at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were contacted regarding a new homeschool policy created by the commanding officer of the base. He indicated that this restrictive policy would take effect at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. The families immediately contacted HSLDA and asked for help.

Under the new requirements, the commanding officer would approve home instruction programs, determining whether each had comparable “curriculum content, quantity, and quality to that provided in academic subjects in the same grade level” at Department of Defense schools. Furthermore, homeschool families would have to establish that they were approved by a governmental agency in the United States. In addition, parents had to demonstrate that they were “capable, by education or experience, of conducting home instruction.”

The policy also stated: “The Commanding Officer may impose requirements for home instruction, including, but not limited to, minimum hours of instruction per day, minimum days of instruction per academic year, records of instruction, inspections, and proof of satisfactory completion of one grade level of home instruction.”

The commanding officer indicated that any family that did not comply would be forced to return to the States.

Senior Counsel Chris Klicka wrote to the base commanding officer explaining that there is no compulsory school attendance law for military dependants overseas. Therefore, there is no basis upon which the commanding officer could enact regulations for parents providing home instruction.

He further explained that the new policy violated the fundamental right of parents to choose how to educate their children as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Finally, he explained that military commanders overseas only have the limited authority to provide free public education, not regulate private education. If he believed that there was probable cause of actual neglect of the children’s education, he could investigate families only on that basis. He concluded by requesting that the policy be rescinded immediately.

The commanding officer responded by eliminating all of the requirements of pre-approval of the homeschool curriculum. He issued a complete revision of the earlier policy. The new policy simply asks the family to notify the commander of the name and age of children who will be homeschooled. No other requirements apply except a statement to “encourage families to maintain records to document educational activities and progress.”

This is an incredible turnaround. We are thankful to God that this onerous homeschool policy was completely abandoned.