Homeschooling parents in Hernando County, Florida, were shocked to receive a letter from public school officials implying that they had neglected their children’s education and threatening them with severe repercussions.
The family, who are members of HSLDA, were told they had 30 days to submit their homeschool portfolio with samples of their children’s schoolwork that a special committee would then review.
The law requires homeschooling families to maintain a portfolio of their homeschool that includes a log of educational activity and samples of student work which officials can ask to review. However, the letter warned that “failure to present the portfolio could result in your child’s immediate termination from home education and referral for truancy.”
Realizing they needed help, the family contacted Home School Legal Defense Association.
Unraveling the Situation
After speaking with the family and reviewing their situation, I deduced that someone had contacted school officials and accused the parents of failing to educate their children.
A truancy official apparently had attempted to contact the family without success; the portfolio review letter was sent to inspect their home education records.
After reading the letter closely, it became apparent to me that the district was confused about what type of portfolio review state law allowed in this situation.
As many homeschool parents in Florida know, there are two different types of portfolio reviews.
The first portfolio review is outlined under the homeschool law in Florida Statutes §1002.41. Under this provision, a homeschool parent is to make student portfolios available to the district school superintendent or their agent with 15 days’ written notice. However, state law makes it clear that the superintendent is not required to inspect the portfolio. Generally, these types of portfolio reviews are requested when there is some evidence that a child is not being educated.
The second type of portfolio review involves a much more formal process, found under the enforcement of school attendance and not the homeschool law. Section 1003.26(f) of Florida Statutes requires a portfolio review every 30 days when a student “who has been identified as exhibiting a pattern of nonattendance” is withdrawn from the public school to be homeschooled.
A student is considered to have exhibited a pattern of nonattendance if they have had at least five unexcused absences in a calendar month or 10 or more unexcused absences in a 90-day period. Once this occurs, the school principal refers the case to the school’s child study team.
If that team ultimately determines a pattern of nonattendance is developing, a meeting with the parent must be held to identify potential remedies. It is only when the student is then withdrawn to homeschool that a 30-day portfolio review may be required.
It was clear to me that the school official got confused when requesting the portfolio review of our member family. Their children had not been enrolled in the public school, so they could not (in accordance with Florida law) have been exhibiting a pattern of nonattendance.
Proof of Progress
I contacted the district and explained state law. We also provided the school official with an evaluation of both children by a Florida-certified teacher, who verified that she had seen a portfolio for both children and that they were making progress commensurate with their abilities. Selecting a Florida-certified teacher to review their portfolio is one of the options that home education parents are permitted to choose, to comply with the annual-assessment requirement when reporting to their school district.
After receiving this evaluation and confirmation that the portfolios were following Florida law, the school district dropped their request for their portfolio and closed their investigation. The family was happy to have this false report cleared up and the whole situation behind them.