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April 26, 2016

Kent County Refuses to Trust Umbrellas

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Under the Maryland homeschool regulations, a family who participates in an umbrella program never needs to have any communication with public school personnel after filing their initial homeschool notification. Kent County, however, recently disregarded this fact.

SCOTT WOODRUFF Contact attorney for Maryland

A family in the Millington area who participates in an umbrella program received a letter from a county public school representative saying, “As I am sure you are aware, the homeschool regulations require annual verification for any parent who provides home instruction. … Please complete the enclosed form.”

There were several errors in this letter. First, while parents who are under the portfolio option are indeed required to confirm annually to the public schools that they plan to continue homeschooling, parents who are under the umbrella option communicate this to their umbrella program, not the public schools. The school staff should never have asked the family in question for any information at all!

Not Authorized

Second, the form the school sent the family sought information not authorized under the regulations. The annual verification requires no information other than simply whether or not the family plans to continue homeschooling the child, according to COMAR 13A.10.01.01.B(2). Nevertheless, the school sent the family an initial homeschool “notification” form requiring a great deal more information (which only needs to be filed the very first year a child is homeschooled).

The family explained to the school staff that they had already communicated their annual confirmation to their umbrella program. They also pointed out that their umbrella program had already passed the information on to the public schools. Preposterously, the staff member replied (in essence): We can’t take their word for it—we must hear from the parents themselves.

Being members of Home School Legal Defense Association, the family asked us for help. HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott A. Woodruff wrote a letter to the school representative. He explained how her actions conflicted with the regulations, asked her to bring her actions into line with state law, and asked her to send a letter of correction to the affected families.

The representative sent a brief reply: “Kent County Public Schools will be adjusting their practices.”

We will hope for the best. However, if Kent County Public Schools asks you for something that you believe is not consistent with the homeschool regulations, please notify us at once.