After a fatal shooting occurred in their Oregon neighborhood, a homeschooling family moved to West Virginia in search of a safer place to live. Instead, they encountered a different kind of lawlessness—this time by public school officials acting on a sketchy policy (one that HSLDA has opposed for some time).

Although the family of eight promptly submitted all the necessary documentation to homeschool in the Mountain State—which their county school board acknowledged, the family was shocked to receive a letter from their county attendance director stating that officials were “re-enrolling one of the family’s children in public school for ‘noncompliance.’” 

Why this Family Left Portland in 2021

As the father told me their story: “It was no longer possible for us to live peacefully in Portland. The crime was getting so bad in our area of the city—a person was shot and killed right outside our townhome. We struggled financially due to the pandemic, but my wife was able to secure employment in West Virginia near her extended family. So, I stayed home to homeschool the kids. I have two college degrees, but my field is shrinking, so we had to move.”

He added that relocating provided an extra benefit in the form of more flexible homeschool laws. “I was glad to find that West Virginia allowed non-testing options as some of our kids have special learning needs and don’t do standardized tests.”

Even so, the father said, “I was shocked to receive the letter from the school board saying they were re-enrolling my son in the school because they didn’t have an assessment for the third grade. We had not placed our son in third grade, and we had never ‘enrolled’ him in the school anyway, so I was really astonished!

HSLDA learned about this family’s situation through Christian Home Educators of West Virginia—one of several groups that are instrumental to the support of homeschooling in the state.

Taking Action

After I contacted the dad and then made several attempts to reach the attendance officer, I sent the officer a letter pointing out that state law specifically exempts children from compulsory attendance after their parents’ notice of intent has been received and acknowledged by county officials.

Investigating further, I discovered that the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) had apparently "directed” attendance officers all over the state that they should “re-enroll” homeschooled children who were deemed “not in compliance” with the homeschool law.

As I reported earlier this year, the WVDE has also been telling counties to unlawfully obtain, store, and use student data such as birthdates to determine grade levels for the purpose of tracking assessment reporting. Could these state-level directives be related to the county attendance officer’s letter to the family in this story?

Faulty Policy

Expressing these concerns in my letter to the school district, I explained that these parents knew West Virginia homeschool law requires an assessment for students in the 3rd grade, but that they had not officially placed their son in the 3rd grade. Consequently, demands by officials for an assessment of the student were based on an assumption, and not fact.

I added: “I am unaware of any provision of law that allows a school district to re-enroll a child in the public school as a consequence for noncompliance with the homeschool law. I am also unaware of any legal authority that empowers any school official to enroll the [family’s] child in a school absent parental consent. Because [the parents] have complied with the provisions of W.Va Code 18-8-1, [their son] is exempt from compulsory school attendance.  . . . [this student] has never been ‘enrolled’ in the school and thus it would be impossible to ‘re-enroll’ him.”

I concluded: “The West Virginia Department of Education has no lawful authority to direct any county to take any action with respect to homeschool students. I respectfully urge the county to cease and desist from enforcing unlawful policies.”

What Happened Next

The morning after I sent the letter, the school district replied, assuring me they had made a mistake. Officials promised that “no students will be enrolled or re-enrolled in [that county’s] schools as a result of not producing annual academic assessments.”

It’s refreshing to see a county board of education lawyer quickly grasping the law, taking immediate corrective action, and sincerely desiring a good relationship with local homeschoolers.

“We have great homeschool families in this community,” the district’s lawyer told me. “We value education and we want to have a good relationship with our homeschooling parents.”

Here for You

Swift and positive resolution of conflicts like this is exactly what our legal team strives for. We want our members to have confidence and peace of mind. I was delighted to resolve this matter so quickly to the relief of our member family. 

If you are an HSLDA member and encounter a similar situation, please contact me immediately. You can count on HSLDA to work tirelessly to defend your right to homeschool. That’s our mission.