After several weeks of trying the public-school-at-home program developed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a Sarasota County mom decided she was going to withdraw her daughter and homeschool her.
She promptly notified school district officials of her intent to establish a homeschool program. The mom also informed her daughter’s teacher, as the two had been in regular contact since the transition from school to home.
They had had a pleasant conversation, with the teacher even admitting that distance learning "has been an interesting challenge in my household as well, both as a teacher and a parent.”
While mom thought that she might have a little trouble withdrawing her daughter from the school, she was completely unprepared for what happened next.
Knock on the Door
Just two weeks after submitting her homeschool notice, her normal morning routine was interrupted by loud knocking on the door. She opened the door to find two school officials, including the school guidance counselor.
After introductions were made, the guidance counselor stated that they were visiting because the daughter’s former teacher had expressed concern that the girl was missing classes being held on Zoom, a video conferencing program.
Mom quickly pointed out that her daughter was only in kindergarten and that the Zoom classes were voluntary. She also informed the school officials that she had submitted her notice to homeschool her daughter and the teacher already knew this.
She was shocked again when the school official informed her that “no one can withdraw their children right now.”
The mom immediately contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for help. After describing her ordeal she said, “I think that it’s absurd for school officials to make home visits during a stay-at-home order. If they do have a legitimate reason for concern, they should call the proper authorities.”
I assured her that she had done everything she was supposed to by submitting her written notice establishing a home education program for her daughter. I also let the mom know that the school district couldn’t prohibit her from withdrawing her daughter, assuring her that I would reach out to the school district on her behalf.
We spoke about her search for resources as she transitioned to privately homeschooling her daughter. I shared information about our education consultants, who offer guidance on schooling from early years, high school, and even struggling learning. We also spoke about the MomPossible site that we recently launched to help families just like her begin their homeschool journey.
She said, “While I don’t know if we’ll be homeschooling forever, I do believe it’s best for us during this time. It will give us time to learn and laugh as we choose. To have that infringed upon in any way has been a heartbreaking realization.”
I emailed the school district superintendent, the home education contact, and the school principal to ensure that this young child was properly withdrawn. I reminded them that Florida law requires officials to “immediately” register a home education program.
Within hours of notifying Sarasota County School administration of the problem, I heard back from a supervisor that the home education notification had been located and the child withdrawn from the elementary school. The school official apologized for the difficulties that the family experienced and stated that those making the home visit were not aware mom had already declared her intent to establish a home education program.
While we don’t expect any more trouble from this particular school, it seems that several other school officials across the state believe that they can deny parents the opportunity to withdraw their children and privately educate them at home. We
have been in contact with the Florida Department of Education to try to preempt other similar heavy-handed or wrong actions by local school officials.