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June 17, 2016

Miami-Dade Almost Kills Homeschool Grad’s Bright Future

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A homeschooled high school senior nearly missed his chance to apply for a scholarship because local bureaucrats didn’t want to follow the law.

Tj Schmidt TJ SCHMIDT Contact attorney for Florida

It all started on a Friday earlier in June, when a Home School Legal Defense Association member in Miami-Dade visited the county school district’s Federal and State Compliance Office, which manages home education paperwork. Our member’s son was graduating, and she was attempting to submit the community service hours that he had completed for his Bright Futures scholarship eligibility. Unfortunately, she was told by an office worker that he could not record her son’s community service hours and that Miami-Dade would no longer be accepting or validating these hours for any homeschool student.

Knowing that the worker was new to the home education position and believing he was mistaken about the policy, our member asked to speak with a supervisor. But the supervisor, also in the Federal and State Compliance Office, said the same thing. When our member then tried to document this outrageous policy (as well as the reason why her son’s hours would not be accepted) by asking for it in writing, school officials called a public safety officer to escort her off the premise.

Our member then contacted us for help.

Seeking Answers

HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt immediately contacted the Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) to discuss the process for verifying community service hours for home education students and to notify them of the situation in Miami-Dade.

According to the Florida Administrative Code 6A-20.028, a home education student must “complete community service hours … by high school graduation.” These community services hours “may not be hours that benefitted the student financially or materially, or be service to family members.”

Each agency where the community service hours were earned “must provide on agency letterhead documentation of the number of hours and dates of service completed.” State law also requires that a homeschool student submit verification of these hours to “the student’s district where the student is registered for the 11th and 12th grades as a home-educated student.”

OSFA confirmed that this was not the first time they had heard home education students having problems submitting their community service hours to Miami-Dade. However, the OSFA staffer that Schmidt spoke to said the correct person to submit the hours to was the home education contact. Schmidt asked OSFA to contact Miami-Dade to ensure that school officials would follow the law and process the community service hours.

Addressing the Law

Schmidt then contacted the Miami-Dade School Board Attorney’s Office and left a message for one of the attorneys he knows. Schmidt explained the current situation and the unlawful policy that the Miami-Dade Federal and State Compliance Office was attempting to implement. Schmidt asked the attorney to contact that office and educate school officials on state law, so that our member could submit her son’s community service hours and other homeschool families would not have any problems doing the same.

After Schmidt followed up with our member, it was decided that she should send a detailed email to various individuals within the Miami-Dade Federal and State Compliance Office, including the director of that office. She did this on Monday evening.

By noon on Tuesday our member heard back from the director, who said that all community service hours could be sent to her for verification. Our member submitted the hours. On Thursday she heard back that her son’s hours were verified and submitted to OSFA for his Bright Futures eligibility.

Our member told us: “When my eldest entered seventh grade, I joined HSLDA to support their efforts to defend the freedom to homeschool around the world. I didn’t think I would find these injustices so close to home. Thank you for unraveling the red tape!”

We fully expect that the combined action by HSLDA and our member family has stopped Miami-Dade’s short-lived attempt to refuse to accept home education community service hours for Bright Futures eligibility. However, if you experience difficulties with this issue in Miami-Dade or any other Florida school district, please don’t hesitate to contact us.