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Do I Need to File Homeschool Paperwork if my Child is in an Online Private School?

by Scott Woodruff • July 23, 2019

For many years, public school officials in Virginia sporadically demanded that a student who learns at home through a private school must follow the home instruction laws if he is not instructed at the physical location of the private school. Most of these officials backed down after HSLDA challenged them on this point, however.

But so long as Virginia law said a parent must “send” a child to school, it gave those officials at least a tenuous reason for demanding that every private school child must either physically go to the school’s location or follow the home instruction statute.

The enactment of House Bill 829 in 2018 wiped out that reason. The bill removed the word “send” from the compulsory education law. Instead, it said that a child can “attend” a private school by taking part in instruction at a site remote from the location of the private school itself. The child’s own home could easily be the remote site.

This should be encouraging for parents whose students participate in a private school program but don’t physically go to the school for instruction.

The Fine Print: Hours, Days, Seasons

In order for a student’s attendance at either a remote or brick-and-mortar private school to satisfy compulsory attendance law, however, the student must attend school the same number of hours per day, the same number of days per year, and must even attend during the same period of the year (fall, winter, spring) that public schools are in session.

Some online private school may not keep track of how many hours per day, or days per year that students spends in their respective studies.

The Fine Print: Comply with the Private School’s Rules or be Truant?

In order for attendance from a remote location to satisfy the compulsory school law, Virginia Code §22.1-254, the child’s attendance must be “with the permission of the school and in conformity with applicable requirements.”

Interpreting this provision raises questions.

On behalf of HSLDA, I represented a Virginia family that was taken to court over an allegation of truancy. A question arose as to whether the child’s remote private school attendance was “in conformity with applicable requirements.”

There was considerable back-and-forth because the child’s record was not what might have been wished. The prosecuting attorney eventually dismissed the charges.

Unresolved, however, was the question of what “requirements” a remotely attending student must meet. Does it mean a minimum grade point average or certain amount of progress in classes? Maybe or maybe not. But it’s safe to say that if a school expels the student, the student did not meet the school’s requirements.

Families who seek to satisfy compulsory attendance via remote attendance at a private school should strive to comply with the school’s requirements.

What if the School is Accredited or Recognized?

The hour-day-season requirements apply even if the private school is accredited, or otherwise recognized by an agency.

On the other hand, it is not necessary that the remote private school have a physical presence in Virginia.

Private School or Homeschool?

If you want your child to participate in an online school, but aren’t sure if the child will meet the hour-day-season requirements, or you feel insecure about meeting the school’s requirements, a better choice for you might be to file a notice of intent, or file for religious exemption, or operate under the certified tutor provision.

HSLDA is here to give you prompt, accurate guidance whichever option you pursue. Membership in HSLDA is open to both private school families and home school families.

Scott Woodruff

Senior Counsel

Scott is a seasoned attorney and homeschool advocate with decades of involvement in homeschool legal issues and cases. Read more.

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