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May 24, 2012

New Law Cures “Curriculum Description” Headache

Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Virginia. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.

Virginia’s vague requirement that homeschoolers annually submit a “description of the curriculum to be followed” has caused headaches for years. But in virtually every case, a school system that made an unreasonable demand for information would back down when HSLDA got involved.

Then last September, Warren County Public Schools crossed the line and threatened several Home School Legal Defense Association member families with prosecution if they did not provide a table of contents for their subjects. The school system relented after HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff wrote a firmly worded letter. But this time Woodruff was convinced that it was imperative to find a long-term solution.

Woodruff urged Home Educators Association of Virginia and Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers to collaborate to change the law. Representatives of the three organizations subsequently met with staff of the Virginia Department of Education to underscore the new seriousness of the situation and ask the Department to issue a public statement that would clearly and correctly explain the law to school administrators. When no statement was forthcoming, homeschoolers went to the legislature.

The three organizations agreed to seek to change the law to say that the curriculum description is simply “a list of subjects to be studied.” After much hard work, many meetings, multiple trips to Richmond, several public hearings and climactic votes on the floor of the House and Senate, Governor Bob McDonnell signed the new law on April 4, 2012.

Effective July 1, 2012, a simple list of subjects to be studied will completely satisfy the homeschool curriculum description requirement. No more headaches!

If you’re not sure what your student’s subjects will be when you file your notice of intent, don’t sweat it. Make your best good-faith guess and get your notice filed by the August 15 deadline. Remember: it’s a statement of intention—not a promise! Keep in mind that there are no required subjects in Virginia, so this should be a “no anxiety zone.” And you are not required to update your notice even if subjects are added or dropped during the year.

If you encounter a school employee who is unfamiliar with the new law, urge them simply to read the up-to-date version of Code of Virginia §22.1-254.1 after July 1, or Senate Bill 564 of the 2012 General Assembly.

We are especially grateful for the effective work of Senator Dick Black and Delegate Brenda Pogge who were the chief sponsors of the legislation in their respective chambers.

 Other Resources

Senate Bill 564