Monday, March 17, 2008
Be careful when classifying your homeschool as a private school
This was sent to me by, a member of a homeschool group I belong to. It is interesting, and has some important information. NHELD Bulletin #61regarding "Private schools and Homeschools"by Attorney Deborah Stevenson. Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, Executive DirectorBulletin #61 Private Schools And Homeschools 03/13/08Did you know? that it is dangerous for homeschoolers to be considered"private schools"?In the late 1980's and early 1990's, when people began to call whatparents traditionally have done since the beginning of time,"homeschooling" , a certain organization began to advise people thathomeschoolers should call themselves a "private school". Theorganization encouraged parents in a great many states who wished tohomeschool to do so either under existing "private school" statutes, orto otherwise compromise with government officials in having themconsider homeschoolers as "private schools." Such advice was given to homeschoolers in Connecticut. At first,parents were divided as to the idea. In the end, parents rejected theidea. Parents in Connecticut derive their right from a differentstatute that mandates that parents "instruct their children" or "causethem to be instructed". Parents researched the history of that statuteand argued that they already had the duty and obligation to educatetheir own children and need not be considered a private school oranything else. The parents stood by that interpretation, repeated itoften, stood up for their rights, and, to date, have maintained their freedom.In other states, parents chose to accept the advice of that group andconsidered themselves to be private schools, with or without sufficientbacking in law.NHELD always has rejected the notion that homeschoolers should beconsidered "private schools" because of the dangers inherent in doingso. The primary danger in being considered a private school is thatprivate schools are regulated by state and federal governments, andthose regulations increase over time. For example, state governmentstypically regulate:1.. the type of building a private school is required to have; 2.. the health, fire, and safety measures that the private school mustundertake; 3.. the age of the children who attend the private school for it to beconsidered a private school; 4.. whether or not it must be a brick and mortar facility to beconsidered a private school; and 5.. whether the private school must be inspected;Most states have truancy statutes that provide that students who areenrolled in a public or a private school that have a certain number ofunexcused absences shall be considered truant. Students who have beenreported as truant from private schools also become subject to thestate's statutes regarding penalties for the truancy, including childprotective actions and juvenile court proceedings.Some states have "approval" processes for private schools, whether theyare voluntary or mandatory "approval" processes. Some states also have adopted statutes that mandate the teaching ofcertain courses in private schools, such as health, or civics.The federal government also regulates private schools. For example,under No Child Left Behind, there are certain provisions that privateschools must comply with in order to obtain federal funding. Privateschools also are required to comply with the Individuals withDisabilities in Education Act, or IDEA, the federal special educationstatute. Under IDEA, private schools must comply with all sorts ofrules, and be subject to the provision of Individual Education Programs,IEPs, for children enrolled in the private school that are developed andoverseen by the local public school. In addition, states have adoptedtheir own special education statutes that apply to private schools. Private schools also must comply with Section 504 of the federalRehabilitation Act of 1973, a statute that compels the private schoolsto put in place accommodation plans for the disabled. State and federal regulations have encroached upon the freedom ofprivate schools to such an extent today that it is difficult sometimesto discern where the "freedom" still remains in private schools. The danger is that because the state and federal government alreadyhave laws on the books "regulating" private schools, by parentsasserting that they, too, are private schools, to a certain extent,parents who may otherwise be free of government regulation, voluntarilysubmit to already existing regulation and make it that much easier forthe government to impose still more regulation. The parents in some states recognized this early on, while the parentsin other states did not. The parents in some states that considerthemselves to be "private schools" may be perfectly content in doingso. NHELD believes the parents in each state should choose to do asthey desire. We simply want parents to recognize the choices that theymake may have unintended consequences. Such is the situation in California today. Some parents in Californiachose to be considered "private schools", and for a while, thatinterpretation of the law was accepted by government officials. Now,however, a court has applied the facts of one family's homeschooling tothe actual letter of the existing law. That law requires parents who"tutor" their children to be credentialed, and apparently requires"private schools" to be full time "schools" rather than individualinstruction in a parent's home. While the actual court decision isonly binding on the parties involved, parents in California arerecognizing that the law actually does not specify that individualparents may be considered "private schools", thus calling into questiontheir status as homeschoolers under the "private school" law.Whether or not it was a good idea for the parents in California to callthemselves "private schools", since they seem to have widespread publicsupport for their ability to continue to homeschool, parents inCalifornia have a unique opportunity to change the law to enable them tohomeschool as individual parents in freedom. Parents in other states can look to California's experience and use itto their advantage to take the time to research what their statutes say,to determine whether their laws actually allow them to be considered"private schools", and whether being considered a "private school" isbeneficial, or whether they, too, may face dangers in the future.With knowledge, we can retain our freedom. Now is the time to armyourself with that knowledge.