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June 15, 2007

Victory for Homeschool Freedom Bill

After a tremendous effort by the Nevada Homeschool Network, especially Frank Schnorbus and Barbara Dragon, S.B. 404, the Homeschool Freedom Bill, has been signed into law. Joining in the effort during key periods over the past four months were Elissa Wahl, Irene Rushing, Carl Lucas, Tina Goodman, Kelley Radow and former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (also a former homeschooler).

From left, homeschool leaders Kelley Radow (Reno), Tina Goodman, (Fallon), Frank Schnorbus (Minden), Barbara Dragon (Gardnerville), Gov. Jim Gibbons, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (Reno), Carl Lucas (Lovelock), Kime King-Patraw (Las Vegas), Irene Rushing (Sparks) celebrate the signing of the Nevada Homeschool Freedom bill.

Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka was involved in the minute-by-minute drafting process and amendments, as well as orchestrating e-lerts to Nevada HSLDA members. Finally, without the help of the many emails, phone calls, and appearances at committee hearings from homeschool parents throughout Nevada, this bill would never have become law.

Incredibly, S.B. 404 passed during just one legislative session. Many times, this type of bill, which eliminates over 50% of the current regulation, takes several sessions to actually pass. However, due to the expert guidance of the Nevada Homeschool Network, not only was the bill passed by the Senate and the Assembly, and signed by the Governor, but it was passed unanimously by the entire Senate!

S.B. 404 does several things:

  • Eliminates oversight of homeschooling by the local or state public school system. It establishes a one-time (instead of annual) notification of intent to homeschool to be sent to the local school district when the child begins to homeschool. No longer do parents need to show the child’s birth certificate.
  • Eliminates the requirement that homeschoolers provide “equivalent instruction to public schools.” The law recognizes parents’ rights to direct the education of their children and their full responsibility to determine how their children are being educated. It does list certain subjects that must be taught, but only as appropriate for each child’s age and skill level as determined by the parent.
  • Requires the school district to accept a notice of intent that contains the name, age, gender of each child; name and address of their parents; a short educational plan, as appropriate for the age and skill level of the child at the time of filing for the first year of homeschooling.

An optional privacy statement is included on the notice of intent form if you so wish to sign it to prevent your notification from being circulated to anyone else.

The school district must give the parent a “written acknowledgement” that serves as a “Proof of Compliance” with Nevada’s compulsory school attendance law.

S.B. 404 requires the school district give notice about testing opportunities that must be available to homeschool students, such as college entrance exams and the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Exam.

One of the most amazing aspects of S.B. 404 is that it includes a religious freedom clause!

This religious freedom provision in S.B. 404 states that “no regulation or policy of the state board, any school district or any other governmental entity may infringe upon a parent’s right to educate his child based upon religious preference unless it is (a) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (b) the least restrictive means furthering that compelling interest.”

This language was crafted by Klicka in order to parallel religious freedom acts which HSLDA has helped to enact in nearly a quarter of the other states. However, this is the first time it is being used in a purely educational context. This is an important provision because it serves as a “backup” of the homeschool law. Any homeschool family who is teaching their children according to their religious convictions may invoke this clause any time a school district becomes abusive. HSLDA is particularly excited about this aspect of the new Homeschool Freedom Bill.

The term “parent” is defined to include: “parent, custodial parent, legal guardian, or other persons in this state who have control or charge of a child and the legal right to direct the education of the child.”

The Department of Education is required to develop a standard form for homeschool children to participate in programs and activities, including classes, sports, and interscholastic activities.

The Homeschool Freedom Bill will virtually end the state’s power to create regulations for homeschoolers. Now homeschoolers will have all their rights specifically delineated in the Nevada Code as enacted by the Legislature. This makes homeschool rights more permanent.

We are thankful to God for this incredible victory in Nevada. Nevada homeschoolers will now enjoy one of the best laws in the country.