Originally Sent: 8/28/2014
|From the HSLDA e-lert service|
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Meeting Opens Dialogue
Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschool their children.
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Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:
On Monday I joined several local homeschool groups in a meeting with the Federal and State Office of Compliance in Miami-Dade County to discuss home education programs and district officials’ handling of homeschool notices. The purpose of this meeting was to address our serious concerns about the district’s current policies regarding home education programs.
At the meeting were representatives from ARCH Angels of South Florida, Classical Conversations, Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA), Parents’ Association for Christian Enrichment of Miami (PACE), Serving and Learning Together(SALT) and me, HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt. Representing the Federal and State Office of Compliance were Charlene Burks, Joseph Estrada, and Martha Montaner. Assistant School Board Attorney Mindy McNichols was also there.
During the meeting representatives from each homeschool group were able to raise our concerns. Some of these include:
- The practice of issuing a student ID number to each home education student,
- The reports that parents are being discouraged by certain district officials from homeschooling their children,
- The failure of district officials to timely respond to calls and emails from current and potential homeschool parents,
- The dropping of students from a home education program without notification to the parent due to their date of birth,
- And the demand that parents establishing a home education program provide some proof of their relationship to their children and that they reside in Miami-Dade County.
Along with other leaders, I pointed out to Miami-Dade officials that they do not have the authority to decide who can establish a home education program. If a parent provides the required information (names, addresses, and birthdates of all children in the home education program) in writing and signs it, that parent has provided prima facie evidence of a home education program operating in compliance with Florida law.
Homeschool leaders at the meeting also pointed out that the district’s current position also threatens the fundamental civil right of parents to direct their child’s education. For if Miami-Dade refuses to accept a legal notice from the parent establishing a home education program, this refusal could affect a student’s ability to get official verification of their home education program for Bright Futures, Florida Virtual School (FLVS) participation, dual enrollment participation, extracurricular activities or even college admission.
While we failed to persuade Miami-Dade officials to immediately drop their request for this additional information, we were able to open a dialogue with several key people. Miami-Dade officials did agree to review their position and requests for information. Overall, we are hopeful that this situation can still be resolved. At this point, we will continue to pursue the goal of having Miami-Dade recognize every home education program that reports the information mandated by state law. HSLDA will also follow up with Ms. McNichols while local homeschool leaders continue to dialogue with other district officials. We hope to have more information to report in the coming weeks.
We certainly appreciate all of the prayers of those of you in Miami-Dade and the willingness of so many local homeschool leaders to quickly mobilize to help make this meeting a possibility.
Thomas (Tj) Schmidt
HSLDA Staff Attorney
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