In 1998, home instruction regulations were adopted in the U.S. Virgin Islands (VI). In 2016, the VI Board of Education (VIBOE) took action to change the regulations, but we believe the changes never achieved the status of law.
However, since we believe the board’s 2016 measures never became effective, we therefore believe that only the 1998 regulations are valid today.
Home School Legal Defense Association and the U.S. Virgin Island Homeschoolers organization have urged families to disregard the 2016 measures and instead comply with the lawful 1998 regulations (including using the 1998 notice form). The VIBOE, as might be expected, believes the 2016 measures are valid.
In light of this situation, families may wonder: what’s the difference between the two?
The 2016 measures are very onerous and restrictive compared to the 1998 regulations. Here’s our point-by-point analysis.
1. Can’t homeschool without an official’s approval
Under the 2016 measures, families must file an “application” and cannot homeschool their child unless an official gives his approval (Section 84–3). Since no grounds for disapproval are itemized, the official can presumably disapprove an application for any reason. Under the 1998 regulations, families do not need the approval of an official to homeschool their child.
2. Students must take a Common Core test
The 2016 measures require students to take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments—a Common Core test in English, language arts, and math—in grades 3, 5, 7, and 11 at a location the Department of Education determines (sections 84–8(a) and 84–1(i)). The 1998 regulations do not. We believe this requirement violates federal law.
3. Can’t homeschool without a high school diploma or equivalent
Section 84–1(f) of the 2016 measures defines “home education program” to mean a program in which a child is taught by a person holding at least a high school diploma or equivalent. There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
4. Children may be questioned
The “Home Education Application Form” (HEAF) attached to the 2016 measures empowers an official to question a student as part of the annual academic review. This requirement is probably unconstitutional as a violation of the 4th Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. Officials have no such power under the 1998 regulations.
5. Graduation requirements are imposed
No student can graduate from a homeschool program without complying with Board of Education graduation requirements under the 2016 measures (Section 84–11). No such requirement is contained in the 1998 regulations.
6. Must follow public school calendar
The 2016 measures require homeschool families to instruct their children during the public school year (Section 84–5). The 1998 regulations do contain such requirements.
7. Must provide 1,080 hours of instruction
The 2016 measures require homeschool families to provide 1,080 hours of instruction (Section 84–5). The 1998 regulations require families to list the number of days and hours of instruction they anticipate the student will receive, but do not prescribe a quantity for either.
8. Qualification of instructors to be scrutinized
Under the 2016 measures, parents must list the qualifications of all teachers (Section 84–6(a)(2)). There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
9. Waiting period imposed
Section 84–2(a) of the 2016 measures requires families to file 10 days before starting a homeschool program. This 10-day waiting period is unconstitutional in our view. Under the 1998 regulations, para. 2, families can file up to 10 days after starting their homeschool program.
10. Mandatory subjects are imposed
The 2016 measures impose required subjects every year (Section 84–7). The 1998 regulations do not.
11. Must declare child’s grade
The 2016 measures require parents to declare a single grade level for each child (Section 84-2(b)(3)). The 1998 regulations do not.
12. Must follow local and Department of Education withdrawal processes
Under the 2016 measures, parents must prove they have followed the department’s “student withdrawal process” before they can homeschool a child (Section 84–2(c)). They must also follow any withdrawal process their own district (St. Croix or St. Thomas-St. John) may impose (Section 84–13(a)). We believe this requirement is unconstitutional. There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
13. Must declare reasons for homeschooling
The HEAF requires parents to list their reasons for not keeping the child in public school. There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations. We believe this requirement is unconstitutional.
14. Notarizing mandated
The HEAF requires that the parental signature be notarized. There is no such requirement in the 1998 regulations.
The real home instruction regulations haven’t changed since 1998. The 2016 measures lack any validity. They are imposters. They are also astonishingly restrictive and onerous.
HSLDA and US Virgin Islands Homeschoolers will continue to support families who follow the 1998 regulations.