Public education is reportedly hitting new lows in the Mountain State as it strives to raise its numbers once again through various attempts to bring homeschoolers back into the school system.
As the homeschooling community continues to rapidly grow in West Virginia’s Ritchie County, school officials are swiftly scrambling to find and employ new ways to get home-educated students back into the public classroom. Losing nearly $12,000 of funding per student, the county’s superintendent ordered a campaign designed to convince homeschooling parents to put their children back in the public schools.
According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, based in Purcellville, Virginia, Ritchie County Superintendent of Schools Ed Toman instructed his staff members to contact homeschool parents and persuade them to re-enroll their children in public school.
Corroborating the account, it has recently been reported that numerous homeschool families across the county have been receiving calls from school officials. They allegedly not only interrogated parents on their competency to teach their own children, but they also asked an assortment of questions before hanging up, including, “What can we do to get your kids back in school?”
Stemming a future legal assault?
Wary of the intentions behind the barrage of phone calls targeting homeschool parents across Ritchie County, many of the concerned home educators contacted HSLDA attorneys to get a better understanding of their rights and protect their children and homes from any unwarranted state intrusion. A number of these families informed HSLDA about the invasive line of questioning to which they were exposed.
“I’ve received several calls from the school district,” recounted one HSLDA member who chose to remain anonymous. “One family told me that they had gotten so many calls at their place of employment that their work supervisor was asking questions about the calls.”
She also relayed how her conversation was riddled with a line of intimidation and harassment in an attempt to make them feel guilty for teaching their own.
“Some families who met at the start of the year with counselors about homeschooling were told teachers would lose their jobs because their kids were being homeschooled,” the home educator shared. “They didn’t seem at all interested in the fact that parents were leaving the system because they were fed up with problems.”
She proceeded to end her conversation by letting the school official know that she would not be manipulated by the tactics of the state to pull her children out of her home.
“I told the school district that they were misusing our private information and that we wouldn’t stand for them infringing on our rights to homeschool,” the homeschool mom said.
The beginning of a disturbing trend?
Ritchie County isn’t the only area of West Virginia that is witnessing this campaign targeting homeschoolers. HSLDA staff attorney Michael Donnelly says the evidence is quickly stacking up against the school system as it continues to become more and more hostile across the state toward home educators and those who are considering leaving public school to homeschool.
“I’ve had more contact this year than any other from West Virginia homeschooling families and those interested in homeschooling,” reports Donnelly, who also serves as HSLDA’s director of global outreach. “What I have seen and heard concerns me. Some courts and county attendance officers, mostly in southern West Virginia, are using a variety of court-related procedures to impose unwarranted obstacles to homeschooling.”
Donnelly points out that besides trying to use the judicial system to its advantage, the public school system is instigating battles with homeschool communities. He tells how officials are now maneuvering to deploy a combative strategy to instill fear in home educators so that they will surrender their children back to the schools.
“In some cases, uninformed school officials are also creating unnecessary conflicts with the homeschool community,” Donnelly continued. “Unfortunately, these state authorities are not respecting the right of parents to make these decisions.”
Ending the harassment?
Donnelly believes that it’s time for the court system to get involved so that school officials will relent in their ambush on homeschoolers.
“I would like to see the legislature take up this issue in the near future,” shared Donnelly, who also serves as an adjunct professor of government at Patrick Henry College in Virginia, where he teaches constitutional law. “Homeschooling families in some parts of West Virginia are being subjected to unreasonable intrusions.”
He foresees an outright statewide attack on homeschoolers if parents and pro-family organizations bow down to state.
“I’m concerned that this could spread to other areas of the state, if not checked,” voiced Donnelly, who is personally aware of the threat as a homeschooler of seven with his wife in the Mountain State. “Regardless, HSLDA is ready to defend our member families who encounter difficulties with the authorities over homeschooling.”
In an effort to mitigate the attack on homeschooling in Ritchie County, a band of local homeschoolers gathered at a public meeting last month with the Ritchie County Board of Education, urging the board members to persuade the superintendent to end his campaign of harassment on homeschool families.