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South Carolina
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South Carolina

August 19, 2016

State Makes Demands Outside Lawful Boundaries

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Recently the South Carolina Department of Education (DOE)—without authorization from the legislature—added two mandates to the annual standards assurance form that many Option 3 associations use.

SCOTT WOODRUFF
Contact attorney for South Carolina

State law does not require associations to use any particular form to document their compliance. Nor does it require that associations take the initiative to seek the DOE’s acknowledgement that their standards are in compliance. And, importantly, the DOE has no authority to question whether individual families are following the standards of the association under which they are operating.

Having said that, the DOE’s 2015–16 form lined up pretty well with state law, thus providing an easy and non-intrusive way for an association that so desires to obtain the DOE’s acknowledgement and the benefits that flow therefrom. The DOE’s 2016–17 form, on the other hand, jumps the guardrails of state law in two respects. It mandates that the association list its website address, and follows up with a demand to confirm that documentation of its standards is posted on its website.

Not only is there no state law requirement that associations put their standards on their website, but there is not even a mandate that they have or identify a website.

The DOE’s new demands could set a dangerous precedent. One could reasonably ask: if the DOE can impose these non-statutory demands today, what non-statutory demands will they impose tomorrow? It is easy to see how the freedom of every homeschool family, and the freedom of the Option 3 associations, could be placed in jeopardy by the DOE failing to respect the guardrails the legislature has established.

We have opened a conversation with senior staff at the DOE geared toward encouraging them to take a second look at this issue. We hope this will result in the DOE removing the new, non-statutory demands.

Until this danger passes, the homeschool community can help protect freedom by graciously and firmly refusing to submit to the DOE’s non-statutory demands.