U.S. Virgin Islands—Will the Real Home Instruction Regulations Please Stand Up?
by Scott Woodruff • August 12, 2019
In 1998, home instruction regulations were adopted in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2016, the Virgin Islands Board of Education attempted to change the regulations but, in our opinion, the changes never achieved the status of law because they were never signed by the Governor.
Since 2016, HSLDA and the organization U.S. Virgin Island Homeschoolers have urged families to disregard the spurious 2016 regulations and instead comply with the lawful 1998 regulations (including using the 1998 notice form). But the Board of Education has taken the position that the questionable 2016 regulations are the law and supersede the 1998 regulations.
So far as we know, no official has threatened to take any homeschool family to court over this issue. But this may leave families wondering: what’s the difference between the 1998 and 2016 legislation? The 2016 pseudo-regulations—which probably should not be called regulations at all—are onerous and oppressive compared to the 1998 regulations. Here’s our point-by-point comparison.
- CAN’T HOMESCHOOL WITHOUT AN OFFICIAL’S APPROVAL
Under the 2016 regulations, families must file an application and cannot homeschool their child unless an official gives his approval. Section 84-3. Since no grounds for disapproval are itemized, the official can presumably disapprove an application for any reason. Under the 1998 regulations, parents do not need the approval of an official to homeschool their child.
- STUDENTS MUST TAKE COMMON CORE TEST
The 2016 regulations require students to take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments—a common core test— in English-Language Arts and Math in grades 3, 5, 7, and 11 at a location the Department of Education determines. Sections 84-8(a) and 84-1(i). The 1998 regulations do not.
- CAN’T HOMESCHOOL WITHOUT A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA
Section 84-1(f) defines “home education program” to mean a program in which a child is taught by a person holding at least a high school diploma or equivalent. There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
- CHILDREN MAY BE QUESTIONED
The form attached to the 2016 regulations empowers an official to question a student as part of the annual academic review. Part C, first paragraph. Officials have no such power under the 1998 regulations.
- GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS ARE IMPOSED
No student can graduate from a homeschool program without complying with Board of Education graduation requirements under the 2016 regulations. Section 84-11. No such requirement is contained in the 1998 regulations.
- MUST FOLLOW PUBLIC SCHOOL CALENDAR
The 2016 regulations require homeschool families to instruct their children during the public school year. Section 84-5. The 1998 regulations do not.
- MUST PROVIDE 1,080 HOURS OF INSTRUCTION
The 2016 regulations require homeschool families to provide 1,080 hours of instruction. Section 84-5. The 1998 regulations require families to list the number of days and hours of instruction they anticipate the student will receive, but do not prescribe a quantity for either.
- QUALIFICATION OF INSTRUCTORS TO BE SCRUTINIZED
Under the 2016 regulations, parents must list the qualifications of all teachers. Presumably a family’s application to homeschool will be denied if the official does not like the qualifications of a teacher. Section 84-6(a)(2). There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
- WAITING PERIOD IMPOSED
Section 84-2(a) of the 2016 document requires families to file 10 days before starting a homeschool program. This 10-day waiting period is unconstitutional in our view. Other parents are not required to wait 10 days before changing their child’s educational setting. Under the 1998 regulations, para. 2, families must file not later than 10 days after starting their homeschool program.
- MANDATORY SUBJECTS ARE IMPOSED
The 2016 regulations impose required subjects every year. Section 84-7. The 1998 regulations do not.
- MUST DECLARE CHILD’S GRADE
Some children operate on different grade levels in different subjects. The 2016 regulations require parents to declare a single grade level for each child. Section 84-2(b)(3). The 1998 regulations do not.
- MUST FOLLOW LOCAL AND DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WITHDRAWAL PROCESSES
Under the 2016 regulations, parents must prove they have followed the Department’s “student withdrawal process” before they can homeschool a child. Section 84-2(c). Parents must also follow any withdrawal process their own district (St. Croix or St. Thomas-St. John) may impose. Section 84-13(a). There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
- MUST DECLARE REASONS FOR HOMESCHOOLING
The Home Education Application Form (HEAF) contained within the 2016 regulations requires parents to list their reasons for not keeping the child in public school. Part A. There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
- NOTARIZING MANDATED
The HEAF requires that the parental signature be notarized. Part D. There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
In some ways, the ersatz 2016 regulations are worse than any in the nation. In many ways, they are more burdensome and restrictive than the 1998 regulations. Freedom hangs in the balance in the USVI. A bill that would have established a better home school statute was vetoed in 2017. The Department of Education claims families must follow the 2016 regulations. But by remaining unified and ready to act, we can give liberty the protection it deserves.