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October 24, 2013

School District Refuses to Return Portfolio Because No Science Taught

Senior Counsel Dee Black answers questions and assists members with legal issues in Pennsylvania. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

Earlier this month, Home School Legal Defense Association assisted a member family in the Cornwall-Lebanon School District who had been unable to obtain the return of the portfolio submitted for their daughter’s home education program at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The reason given by the school district for refusing to return the portfolio was that the parents had failed to teach their daughter science as a student in the 8th grade.

State law requires homeschoolers to submit a portfolio of records to the local public school superintendent by June 30 of each year. The superintendent then reviews the portfolio and determines whether the student is receiving an “appropriate education.” The law also requires the superintendent to return the portfolio to the parent regardless of the superintendent’s finding. In this case, the superintendent decided to retain the portfolio until the parents submitted proof that the homeschool curriculum for their daughter the previous year had included science.

No Legal Basis

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the superintendent, asking that the portfolio be returned immediately. Black pointed out that while science is one of the required subjects for students in grades 7-12, there is no requirement that all of these subjects be taught every year. Further, parents conducting a home education program do not have to teach subjects in the same grades they are offered in public school. The parent supervising the home education program has the flexibility to determine the schedule of instruction in each of the subjects being taught. Thus, there was no legal basis for objecting to the student’s portfolio on the ground that it did not contain evidence of instruction in science.

Within a week of receiving HSLDA’s letter, the school district returned the portfolio to the family and acknowledged that their program was in compliance with state law.

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