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December 16, 2002

Department of Defense Applies New Equal Access Policy for Homeschoolers

Homeschoolers in the military are in a unique situation when they find themselves stationed overseas. Unlike those in the states, homeschoolers overseas rarely have access to English libraries, sports, various extracurricular activities, and other supplemental classes and courses found in the U.S.

Home School Legal Defense Association proposed a law that was adopted by Congress in 2002. Chris Klicka, senior counsel, and Tom Washburne, director of the National Center for Home Education, met with Dr. Joseph Tafoya, the director of the Department of Defense Education Activity in March of 2002, in order to help him implement the new law. This law allowed homeschoolers to receive equal access instruction from the Department of Defense schools (DODEA) without having to follow the normal registration of their student as a DODEA student. On November 6, 2002, the Department of Defense issued the policy memorandum regarding homeschooling. For the most part, the new policy accurately reflects the intent of Congress.

The new policy states that "DODEA recognizes that homeschooling is a sponsor's right and can be a legitimate alternative form of education for the sponsor's dependents…. Sponsors are responsible for complying with applicable local requirements." The memo does make one mistake by stating that a "host nation…where a DOD sponsor is stationed may impose legal requirements on homeschooling practices." This is inaccurate because homeschoolers, and all other military personnel's children, are not subject to any host nation's compulsory attendance laws. Education of military and civilians working for the military dependents are under no specific authority when they are overseas.

The rest of the memo accurately lays out the different options that homeschoolers have to participate with the DOD schools. The policy states that DOD dependent who is educated in a homeschool setting "shall be permitted to use or receive auxiliary services of that school without being required either to enroll in or register for a minimum number of courses offered by the school." The DOD dependent who is homeschooled may participate as long as they prove that they are a dependent in the military or a dependent of a civilian working for the military. Proof of eligibility is established by a copy of the sponsor's orders and independent proof of a dependent's identity. Preferred forms of identification are birth certificate, a valid passport, a DOD identification card, or other photo identification.

Homeschoolers who use auxiliary services must meet the same eligibility requirements and standards of conduct applicable to dependents enrolled in DODEA schools. For each academic quarter, a sponsor must "provide a self-certified statement attesting to the dependent's satisfactory progress in the course of study that he or she is taking."

The homeschoolers can receive auxiliary services that are defined as academic resources, access to the library of the school, after hours use of school facilities, and participation in music, sports, and other extracurricular and interscholastic activity.

Academic resources include: textbooks, workbooks, library books, scheduled standardized tests, software, and more, including Internet access through the media center of the school library. The wide range of extracurricular activities available to homeschoolers includes: drama, public speaking, music, and Future Business Leaders of America. Interscholastic activities include: athletic or academic competition. For example, homeschoolers can participate in varsity football, the science competition, and the U.S. model senate.

Homeschoolers can also receive gifted and talented services and special education services.

We are thankful for the breakthrough, and a full copy of the policy memorandum can be obtained at:
(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)