District Admits “Termination” Letter Could Have Been Worded Better
by Tj Schmidt • April 2, 2019
Dear homeschooling family: We lost your paperwork. Please send us copies soon or face the consequences. P.S. We could be wrong about this, but you have no way of knowing.
OK, so the letters received by several member families from the Duval County school district’s office of Student Discipline and Support Services didn’t read exactly like this. But it was close.
These letters informed the families that annual evaluations were missing for their children—not for the current school year, but from 2, 3, 4, and even 5 years before.
The message went on to request a copy of these evaluations “within 10 days from the receipt of this letter. Failure to respond in a timely manner will result in immediate termination.”
Alarmed, these families immediately contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.
On the Record
When I reviewed each case, it quickly became apparent that each family had submitted the “missing” evaluations when they were originally required. Thankfully, each family had kept records of every evaluation they had submitted along with the evidence that the district had received them.
While not legally required, most parents had sent the evaluations certified return receipt and had kept the card signed by a Duval County school official.
I contacted Duval County school officials about these letters. I pointed out that in each case, the family had submitted the evaluations when required and that we had proof that the district had received them. I also vigorously objected to threatening families with the “immediate termination” of their home education programs simply because the district had lost their paperwork.
The Duval County officials were quick to acknowledge that these letters could have been written differently. While the letter did say that the district’s “records may not accurately reflect the status of your child’s home education evaluation” and that they were “sorry for any inconvenience this requirement may have caused,” I reminded them that the entire tone of the letter was extremely threatening.
I encouraged them to revise their form letter, and they promised to do so. As we were able to provide the names of those individuals who originally signed for the evaluations, Duval County officials agreed to investigate their procedures and determine where their processes went awry. Finally, the district agreed to notify all the families who received this letter that their home education programs were in good standing.