When I’m talking to homeschool groups that are just starting up, I often recommend that they consult an attorney for some issues. Yet when I make this suggestion, they tend to be surprised!
After all, as they see it, they’re just some homeschool families who want to meet together every week . . . and maybe teach some classes . . . and perhaps pay an art teacher to come in occasionally . . . and do some field trips . . . which means insurance . . . you can see how this gets complex pretty fast.
As HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff has said for years, “I know you don't think of the co-op you are starting as a business, but it really is. It may be a very small business, but it’s a business nonetheless. Because of this, you often need to talk to a small-business lawyer so you can move ahead confidently.”
Before you have that consultation, though, it can be useful to think about setting up these six kinds of policies:
- Child Protection: this might include background checks (especially those working with young children), training for workers and leaders in how to recognize and report child abuse, and making sure that at least one person in your group is responsible for making sure that your rules are followed.
- Code of Conduct: every group has expectations for how both adults and children behave. Make sure that people in the group (and who are thinking of joining) know what you want regarding issues like dress codes, dealing with conflict, and behavior in classes and on field trips.
- Disability: although most private homeschool groups probably aren’t subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, many leaders want to make their group welcoming to families who have children with special needs. HSLDA has collected a number of resources here to help you do just that!
- Membership: some homeschool groups are open to everyone who comes (e.g., during park days), but most have a way to join. That might include interviews, an application, a membership fee, or agreement with a particular statement of faith/purpose. If you want to establish criteria for joining your group, you are welcome to contact our office for samples put together by groups around the country.
- Financial: it’s very important that if any money is changing hands, someone is responsible for it—and someone needs to oversee them, too (embezzlement unfortunately exists even in the homeschool community). You should think about issues like paying your workers, reimbursement of fees when someone leaves, and how to comply with any state or federal filings.
- Medical: most groups by now have some sort of policy regarding COVID-19, but it’s not the only item you need to think about here. Set expectations for when parents and children should stay home if they’re not feeling well. This is also the place to address the precautions your group takes regarding allergies, medications, and any immunization requirements.
HSLDA’s Group Services Department (GroupServices@hslda.org) is always willing to help you think over these issues in the context of your particular group. Please reach out to us!