District officials visit Ky. homeschoolers unannounced

Sunday, March 12, 2017
 | 
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

principal's nameplate on deskOfficials in a Kentucky school district are unexpectedly showing up at the doorsteps of homeschool families’ homes – attempting to justify their home invasions with the excuse that they only want to help the children and instructors.

After being contacted by concerned parents, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) contends that the state’s unwarranted infringement on the education of homeschoolers is not wanted … and not legal.

“[I]t violates a longstanding statewide agreement meant to respect families’ constitutional right to privacy,” HSLDA attorneys argue.

Unjustified intrusions

School officials in the overreaching district were dispatched to monitor homeschooling families – similar to the way that parole officers check up on and keep tabs on former inmates.

“Just last month, several families in the Paris Independent School District reported being visited by school officials,” HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt reported. “If no one was at home, the visit was marked by a doorhanger.”

One of the markers brought to HSLDA’s attention requested a follow-up.

“Home school check. Please give us a call,” read one of the district’s markers, which was signed by the local elementary school’s principal.

Feeling uncomfortable about the “big brother” tactics of the local school district, another concerned parent of a homeschool student posted her concern on social media, warning other home educators in the area about the invited intrusions.

“[It is] disturbing that [Paris Independent Schools] have a supply of pre-printed doorhangers ready for when they make unannounced visits to your home,” the parent commented on the Kentucky Homeschooling Facebook page.

Getting a foot or two in the door

Another homeschool parent – who school officials were able be catch at home – was notified that she can expect future visits. They also requested information and tried to get permission to speak with her child.

“Two school officials who visited parent Jenny Griffith at her home said the district intends to visit every homeschool family three times this year,” Schmidt recounted. “As part of their plan to help families, the school officials asked about attendance records and curriculum. Before leaving, one official asked Jenny about meeting her child. “

Being intimidated by the threatening and intrusive visitation, Griffith contacted HSLDA attorneys for legal advice and possible legal representation if the unwelcomed home invasions continued.

“I got the impression that district staff could become more difficult if I didn't cooperate in answering their questions or bring out my child to meet them,” Jenny explained. “I tried to handle the situation as civilly as possible – without adding any threat to them.”

Knowing the law

HSLDA attorneys are adamant that members of their Christian nonprofit organization know their rights as home educators and informed them that the law does not support such intrusive inspections administered by school officials.

“Under Kentucky law, a homeschool program operates as a private school,” Schmidt stressed. “While private schools are required to keep attendance and scholarship records (i.e. report cards) in the same manner as the local public school, homeschooling parents do not need to open their homes and present these documents simply because a school official comes knocking.”

Backing up HSLDA’s assertion, the homeschool attorney provided an explanation as to why school officials are overstepping the boundaries by showing up at homeschool families’ front doors unannounced and without a legitimate reason.

“Families who homeschool are exercising their right to direct the education of their children,” Schmidt maintained. “Because this is a fundamental right, an agreement was reached over 20 years ago between the statewide homeschool organizations – including Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK), and the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel.”

Evidence supporting the legal group’s contention was then revealed so that homeschoolers will no longer feel compelled to let district officials inside their homes.

“This agreement – commonly known as the Best Practices Document – makes it clear that any parents who notify their district within two weeks of the beginning of school that they are teaching their children in their home are presumed to be operating a bona fide private school,” Schmidt informed. “Unless school officials receive some report or have some evidence that the parents are not educating their children, no further inquiry should be made.”

However, when parents decide to educate their children at home after the school year has already begun, such visits are described as more commonplace.

“The policy is somewhat different for parents who begin homeschooling their children in the middle of the school year,” the Christian lawyer added. “In these cases, families do occasionally receive a visit from their local school officials – like some homeschooling parents who recently began teaching their children in Scott County and Lee County. These families received visits and/or a doorhanger requesting a call back. Most of these school officials wanted to see the children’s curriculum and work samples.”

HSLDA teamed up with a prominent homeschool group in the area so that the district’s intrusive, unnecessary and unlawful visits would come to a quick end.

“Cindy West – a local CHEK representative and veteran homeschooling mom in Bourbon County – and I have contacted the Paris Independent School District, objecting to the home visits of homeschooling parents who are legally operating their private school in compliance with state law,” Schmidt announced. “We expect the district to halt its plan to conduct these visits throughout the school year, but will be continuing to monitor the situation.”

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