KY counties demand records from homeschoolers

Saturday, January 30, 2016
 | 
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

Public schools officials from different counties in Kentucky ordered homeschool families to meet with them to review their academic records.

A Closer LookTwo directors of pupil personnel (DPP) in separate counties recently demanded that home educators submit to their so-called review processes — procedures that the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) says were unlawfully carried out in each case.

After submitting a notice of attendance to the appropriate school official (DPP) to remove their special needs son from public school, one HSLDA member family in Paducah County found that the process was more invasive than they had anticipated.

“Shortly before Thanksgiving, the DPP told the family that his office would be contacting them soon ‘to verify the establishment of [their] home school,’” HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt explained. “In the beginning of December, the DPP followed up with the family, demanding that they ‘provide information to verify their home school as a bona fide home school.’”

The home educators found the request to be excessive and intrusive, as if they needed to get permission from the school district in order to move forward with the curriculum that they custom-tailored for their child.

“The DPP wanted a copy of their school calendar, a daily schedule of their homeschool, and evidence that the family’s children were receiving instruction in ‘core subjects,’” HSLDA informed. “However, according to state law, the only documentation that a public school official may request is attendance records and scholarship reports.”

Even though such a demand was not backed up by state law, the county official in western Kentucky pressed on with the demand.

“Nevertheless, the DPP stated that his office would contact the family to set up a time and location to ‘view’ the family’s records,” the legal group based in Purcellville, Virginia, continued.

A similar breech of public school authority occurred about the same time on the eastern side of the state.

“Meanwhile, a family in Owsley County also received a letter from their local DPP in early December, indicating that he wanted to review their homeschool records ‘to ensure that the requirements of compulsory attendance [were] being met,’” HSLDA reported. “He asked the family to contact him and set up a time to meet, so that the educational records could be reviewed.”

Breaking their own law?

Even though the county school officials from both counties came across as if they were following standard school protocol dictated by the state, both homeschool families found that the state was overstepping its authority.

“In making these requests, the officials exceeded their authority in two ways — they asked for more documents than state law requires from homeschool families,” Schmidt argued. “[T]hey [also] ignored record-viewing guidelines established by their own colleagues.”

HSLDA contends that the issue about whether school officials have the right to demand such records was already resolved in the past — which the DPP from each county failed to acknowledge.

“Many years ago, the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel and the statewide homeschool organizations at the time developed the Best Practice Document to address several legal issues and concerns about private homeschool programs,” the nonprofit homeschool organization pointed out. “These guidelines presume that parents who report their intent to teach their children at home within two weeks of the beginning of school are operating a bona-fide school and are in fact teaching their children at home.”

Once the HSLDA legal team was contacted by the two homeschool members families, it dug up evidence proving that DPPs are only allowed to demand such records under extreme circumstances. In both cases, such conditions were not met.

“The Best Practice Document approach is intended to prevent public school officials from demanding the submission of the attendance and scholarship reports from homeschool families unless there is evidence that a bona-fide homeschool program does not exist,” the legal group declared.

In both Paducah County and Owsley County, Schmidt informed the offices of directors of pupil personnel that they were prohibited from moving forward with their demands concerning the private homeschooling programs — by both Kentucky law and in accordance with the Best Practices Document.

After Schmidt’s clarification of the matter to both offices, each county relented on its demands and agreed to resolve the issues favorably with the homeschool families.

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