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July 15, 2009

Official Plans to Scrutinize Homeschools

Recently, member families residing in Marshall County were surprised to open their local paper to a headline which read, “Marshall County School System investigating home schools in district.” The article declared the agenda of new Director of Pupil Personnel (DPP) Ledonia Williamson to randomly conduct home visits and investigate all homeschool programs during the coming school year.

In the article, Ms. Williamson stated that she intended to visit all of the District’s 121 homeschool families. In addition, Ms. Williamson also said she would be making random phone calls to homeschool families for “periodic check-ins.” Perhaps even more alarming to the residents of Marshall County was that the article went on to state that the “community eye” was a weapon Williamson hoped to employ. “If you see a child out playing all afternoon…when you know full well that child is supposed to be in school at that time,” says Williamson, “I want to know about it.”

Marshall County residents immediately called Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance. Staff Attorney Thomas J. (Tj) Schmidt contacted the features editor of the newspaper to let her know that not only was the article highly offensive to area homeschoolers, but it inaccurately reflected homeschool law in Kentucky. The editor of the newspaper apologized for the “poor wording” in the original article and said they were printing a follow-up article in the subsequent edition. The article that followed did little to reassure homeschooling families in the community.

Schmidt has also written a letter to Ms. Williamson letting her know that random visits to homeschool families are not authorized under Kentucky law and the “Best Practices Document.” Parents have a constitutional right to direct the education of their children, and they have a right to privacy in their homes.

While Kentucky law does require homeschool families to maintain attendance records and scholarship reports, the Best Practice Document does not require parents to submit these records unless there are specific circumstances that would warrant it. Generally, the only time parents must submit any of the homeschool records they are required to keep would be if they failed to submit their notice of intent within two weeks from the beginning of the school year or when there is some evidence that the family is not conducting a bona fide homeschool program.

Should any member family receive a visit from local public school officials about their homeschool program, they can immediately contact HSLDA for assistance.