You have already heard the terrific news that the Virginia Supreme Court ruled unanimously on June 11 that local school boards can’t place their own unique demands on home instruction families.
But there is another important part of the court’s decision.
Some school divisions believe they have power to “approve” or “acknowledge” a notice of intent to provide home instruction. They may refer to the notice of intent as a “request” or an “application.” They may tell families that they are not clear to provide home instruction until they get a nod of approval from school staff. Some have even told families that they cannot withdraw their child until the school approves!
"Notify" Doesn't Mean "Request"
They are mistaken. When the Supreme Court quoted the home instruction statute, they put the word “notify” in italics in order to give it special emphasis, like this:
“Any parent who elects to provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance shall annually notify the division superintendent . . . no later than August 15 (emphasis added).”
The italics mean “pay special attention to this!” This was a not-so-subtle message to the Franklin County School Board. The board had insisted on referring to the Sosebee’s notice of intent as a “request” and had also insisted that they could not homeschool their kids until the superintendent “acknowledged” the notice. This was not the central issue in the case, but the court put “notify” in italics to say, “A notice is effective even if the superintendent never acknowledges it.”
Then the court comes to its resounding conclusion:
“Accordingly, if a parent satisfies the notice requirement and meets the two evidentiary requirements, then she is statutorily authorized to homeschool her child.”
Let the Record Show . . .
This should finally dispel the notion—in Franklin County and elsewhere—that families need to make a request, or seek approval, before launching a home instruction program. A notice of intent to provide home instruction is effective the very minute it is transmitted to the superintendent, assuming it contains everything the law requires.
Naturally, we appreciate the role that conscientious school officials play in looking over notices of intent and letting families know if something required by law is missing.
HSLDA will continue to advise families to do just slightly more than the law explicitly demands in one area. The home instruction statute does not require that families submit a child’s grade level, birth date or age. We advise families to include the child’s age on the notice of intent. We believe this is a sound practice in view of the whole statutory context.
Today we are sending a letter to every division superintendent in the commonwealth to make them aware of the Sosebee decision.