February 27, 2002

Vermont Bill Would Eliminate Notification "Bermuda Triangle"

A bill introduced in Vermont, House Bill 703, would prevent the Commissioner of Education from delaying home school enrollment. The legislation eliminates a section of Vermont's home schooling law that keeps parents in the dark as to the legal status of their home education program. Home School Legal Defense Association believes that this legislation would bring a marked improvement in Vermont law.

When a Vermont family files notice that they intend to home school, the family enters the "Bermuda Triangle," a time period where the family has no idea if their child is technically in a legal "home study program." This time period can last up to forty-five days if the Commissioner so chooses, or if he neglects to reply to the family but up to an additional forty days if he calls a hearing. Thus the Commissioner can make the family wait as many as eighty-five days before they know they are in compliance with the law. House Bill 703 will do away with this obscure waiting period.

In most states, parents can lawfully begin home schooling whenever they like. In a tiny minority (MA, RI, UT and ME), a separate act of "approval" must occur before a home school program is unequivocally legal under state law. Current Vermont law is an awkward hybrid between these two. H. 703 would put Vermont in the mainstream on this issue by unequivocally permitting home school families to begin home schooling immediately upon filing a notice.

Vermont law previously required that a home school program be "approved." After the Vermont Supreme Court criticized the concept of "approval" in the 1976 case Vermont v. LaBarge (134 Vt. 276; 357 A. 2d 121), the legislature adopted the present home school statute. Removing the word "approval," the legislature inadvertently left a vestige of the criticized "approval" process, accidentally creating the odd 45 to 85 day "Bermuda Triangle" time period. During this time, it is nearly impossible to tell whether a family's home school program is legal or illegal, unless the Commissioner responds to the family.

The Vermont Department of Education has proposed a number of unacceptable amendments that would water down this favorable bill. If you live in Vermont, we encourage you to contact your representative immediately if he is on the House Education Committee.

 Other Resources

More information on House Bill 703