August 27, 2001

Rhode Island: Home Schooling Allowed Only in "Unusual Circumstances"

RHODE ISLAND—Excited about beginning their 200102 home schooling program, Mr. and Mrs. B submitted their notice of intent and curriculum information to their local school district. A few days later, they were surprised to receive the district's "home school policy" in the mail a policy that would regulate home schoolers to a ridiculous extent.

Even though Rhode Island recognizes parents' constitutional right to home school, the district's policy stated that approval for parents to educate their own child at home "will be granted only in very unusual cases."

The policy also demanded that all requests to home school "must be submitted in written form on an official application." Rhode Island law specifies no such requirement. By submitting their notice of intent and curriculum information, Mr. and Mrs. B had fully satisfied state law before receiving this policy.

Another burdensome and misleading requirement contained in the district policy was that parents must consent to "periodic testing of the child consistent with the school district's standardized testing program" and "periodic monitoring or instruction by the professional staff of the district." Neither is required by state statute.

Last, but not least, the policy informed Mr. and Mrs. B that home school instruction "shall be coordinated with the work of the regular class so that return to school will require little readjustment." In essence, this would require the family to scrap their own curriculum and use the public school's curriculum instead.

Home School Legal Defense Association immediately wrote the school district, offering to help reform the policy to conform to state law. However, we have not yet received a response.