A military family moving from another state to Virginia’s Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ) recently told me that some families living on base file their homeschool paperwork with Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) representatives rather than with public school division staff. This deserved a response.
Last summer, DoDEA reps at MCBQ told homeschool families living on base that they must file their notice of intent to provide home instruction (and subsequent year-end evidence of progress) with DoDEA representatives, not public school division staff. After trying to resolve this problem by communicating with seven other DoDEA representatives, I was finally able to identify and communicate with the responsible DoDEA attorney.
He and I cleared it up in a short, collegial phone call. I explained to him that DoDEA Administrative Instruction 1375.01—the only such instruction related to homeschooling—did not require homeschool families to give their paperwork to DoDEA representatives. He agreed to tell the DoDEA representatives at MCBQ that they must not insist that homeschoolers file their paperwork with DoDEA.
Absent an exceptional situation, no homeschool family is ever required to give their home instruction paperwork to a DoDEA representative. (If a homeschool family wants to participate in DoDEA activities or events, they will need to follow additional policies that may apply.)
What to Do
But what if a DoDEA representative offers to “handle your paperwork for you”? The best course is probably to politely decline and take care of it yourself. Here’s why.
First, under Virginia law, everything a homeschool family files with their school division or school board is confidential. But if a family gives their paperwork to a DoDEA representative instead, Virginia law provides is no such protection of confidentiality. DoDEA representatives may conclude that they can disclose your paperwork to others.
Second, the legal responsibility for filing necessary paperwork rests on the family even if they ask someone else to file it for them. If parents ask a DoDEA representative to file their paperwork with the school division, and it doesn’t get done, the parents open themselves up to legal liability. The fact that they were relying on someone else to do their own job is not recognized as an excuse in the home instruction statute. Giving paperwork to a DoDEA representative does not in and of itself satisfy Virginia law!
Third, if a family entrusts a DoDEA representative to file their paperwork, school division staff may assume that the family wants the DoDEA representative to act as their agent or go-between on a continuing basis. This could result in a leakier chain of communication and make it more complicated to solve minor problems.
While MCBQ proper spans parts of three counties—Stafford, Fauquier and Prince William—all on-base housing (so far as my checking shows) lies within Prince William County. The superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools is therefore the proper official to receive home instruction paperwork for all or most MCBQ homeschool families, and the Prince William County School Board is the proper point of contact for families seeking to pursue homeschooling under Virginia’s religious exemption statute.
Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) had previously spent a significant amount of time on this issue. HEAV updated me and gave me the benefit of their useful groundwork. This gave me a significant head start toward resolving the issue.