In the middle of December, a longtime homeschool family in Jefferson County, Kentucky received a visit from a school social worker.
Other than informing the family that he was checking up on homeschoolers in the county, he offered no reason for insisting that the parents show him homeschool records for all their children and allow him to take pictures with his phone.
Though his Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) identification card was visible on a lanyard around his neck, the family was a little suspicious about the social worker’s mannerisms and his explanation for being at their front door. Unsure whether they should simply turn over the documents he requested, they informed the JCPS official that they needed time to gather their school records.
The social worker said that he would be back another day. Troubled by the visit, the family turned to the Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK) and HSLDA for help.
After talking with the HSLDA member family, I quickly learned that they had submitted the notice of intent for their private homeschool program within the first two weeks of the school year, in compliance with state law. Under the Best Practice Document (BPD), a longstanding agreement between CHEK and the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel, a homeschool family who complies with state law is presumed to be operating a bona-fide private school.
Recalling the prompt and amicable way JCPS officials have responded to me in the past, I reached out to the pupil personnel director for JCPS. We connected within a few days.
I started off the conversation by informing the director that I had heard that JCPS staff were visiting homeschool families, asking to see their records, and taking pictures with their phones. I mentioned that the individual who visited our member family the previous Friday, while identifying himself as a JCPS employee, had concerned the family with his behavior and vague explanations.
I also pointed out that according to the Best Practice Document, JCPS should only be checking up on families who have missed the two-week deadline for their notice or for whom there is some evidence of failure to homeschool their children.
The director told me that as soon as he received my call on Friday that he spoke with the staff member in question, who is indeed a school social worker. The director assured me that he instructed the staff member that JCPS does not need pictures of homeschool records. He also said he would make it clear that anyone under him at JCPS should explain the reason for visiting a homeschool family right from the beginning.
The director apologized, explaining that the social worker our member family encountered was new to this position and may have had some difficulty communicating because English is not his first language. The director also implied that his six staff members are too busy following up on reports of truant public school students to check up on homeschool families without evidence of wrongdoing.
I did let the director know that the homeschool community is very concerned about unnecessary home visits, and that both CHEK and HSLDA are committed to protecting the liberty that we have in Kentucky. I asked the director to reach out to us in the future if his department receives a report regarding a homeschool family.
Because random audits of Kentucky homeschoolers have happened before, we suggest that any family who is visited by a public school official ask the reason for the visit and then contact us if they need assistance. We often find that these visits are simply fishing expeditions and not due to any specific concern about a particular homeschool program.
We are thankful that this incident was resolved. However, we will continue to monitor the situation in Jefferson County and elsewhere to protect the right of each family to educate their children at home.