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District Drafts Policy, Forgets State Law

by Dan Beasley • September 11, 2018

Homeschooling works because it allows parents, the people closest to their children and most invested in their success, to choose an education best suited to their children’s needs.

But this ideal can be easily disrupted, especially when officials overstep their authority and attempt to interfere with parental choice—which is what Mississippi’s Greenville Public School District appeared to do recently.

Thanks to a tip from Mississippi Home Educators Association (MHEA), I learned that Greenville public school officials were proposing a new homeschool policy—one based on an unsettling premise.

According to the Delta Democrat-Times, Deputy Superintendent Glenn Dedeaux had concerns that homeschool curriculum (in his opinion) is sometimes substandard. He also implied that homeschooled students would have to take subject matter tests to graduate.

Dedeaux said it was appropriate to revise the district’s treatment of homeschoolers because “we are legally responsible to ensure every child of educating age receives an adequate education.”

More than a Disagreement

I read this premise and these comments with concern, not just because I disagreed with the deputy superintendent about the effectiveness of homeschooling, but because his proposal as reported was completely out of line with state law.

After consulting with our friends at MHEA, I wrote the Greenville district, explaining that public school officials have no authority over how homeschoolers teach or test their children.

The Mississippi statute is explicit about this. It declares that it:

shall never be construed so as to grant, by implication or otherwise, any right or authority to any state agency or other entity to control, manage, supervise, provide for, or affect the operation, management, program, curriculum, admissions policy or discipline of any … home instruction program.

I also reminded district officials that homeschooled students may graduate with a valid high school completion credential when they complete a secondary education in a legitimate home instruction program in compliance with state law. They are not required to take standardized tests that may be required of students enrolled in Mississippi public schools.

Deputy Superintendent Dedeaux has indicated a willingness to discuss this matter. He told me that he was misquoted in the Delta Democrat-Times, and that he understands he has no authority over homeschool programs. He also insisted that the proposed policy is designed to ensure students who graduate from public school meet minimum standards.

I appreciate Dedeaux's responsiveness, and I’m hopeful that our interaction will provide sufficient clarity regarding how Mississippi law protects the freedom of homeschooling parents.

Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor the situation with local state homeschool leaders to see if any further action is needed.

Dan Beasley

Staff Attorney

Dan is an attorney and homeschool graduate who provides legal guidance and answers questions for HSLDA member families in 13 states. Read more.

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