Thanks to two alert Loudoun County homeschool moms, HEAV was made aware of questionable changes to the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) homeschool policy. This was the first homeschool policy revision since 2009. Because of these parents, HEAV responded and gave critical input during the initial review process—before the revised policy went to the school board for a final vote and things changed for thousands of Loudoun County homeschoolers.
Know What’s Happening
It’s important to know what’s happening at your local school board. Why? They have delegated authority to implement homeschool laws, and they often put policies in place to carry out the process.
School boards, sometimes unknowingly, adopt homeschool policies that don’t align with the homeschool law. Boards may do this to make their jobs easier or to be consistent with public school policies with which they are already familiar. Without input from the homeschool community, these policies can go unchecked, creating additional requirements and inconsistency from district to district.
It’s important to understand that school boards cannot create new law; only the legislature can. When boards overstep their authority, it creates confusion and difficulty for everyone.
A review of Homeschool Policy 8080 revealed that several proposed changes created additional requirements for homeschoolers—requirements that are not in §22.1-254.1, the legal statute outlining requirements for home instruction of children in Virginia. HEAV’s government affairs team sent an email to Dr. Clark Bowers, director of student services, outlining our concerns. We then initiated a follow-up conference call to discuss policy items that exceeded the homeschool law. Dr. Bowers was amenable to our suggestions and expressed a desire to work with us.
HEAV director of government affairs Yvonne Bunn presented testimony later the same week before the Pupil Services Committee, and—at the request of committee chair, Ms. Leslee King—sent follow-up documentation for review.
Three Policy Concerns
The first change recommended by HEAV regarded parents who move into the district or begin home instruction after the school year has begun. The revision stated they must “notify the school division within 15 days and comply with the provision of the law within 30 days of their notice.” However, the law requires notification “as soon as practicable,” not within 15 days. The statute gives flexibility to parents, while LCPS’s policy adds limits that are not included in the statute. During the follow-up discussion, committee members agreed that it should say “as soon as practicable” to be consistent with the law.
The second HEAV-recommended change referred to language involving testing and evaluations. It stated that an evaluator “should seek approval in advance of the evaluation arrangements, which must be satisfactory to the division superintendent.” Pre-approval of evaluation options is not required in the statute.
Although “should” does not mandate an action, Dr. Bowen agreed with me that it was a strong term and suggested replacing “should” with the word “may.” HEAV agreed this was a better choice of words. It is clear that parents have the opportunity to inquire, if they wish, about the type of evaluation they plan to provide before submitting it.
HEAV also contacted Scott Woodruff of HSLDA. He addressed changes in the appeal process when a parent disagrees with the actions of a superintendent. Their policy stated the appeal should be made to the superintendent and added “or designee.” He asked the committee to remove “or designee” from the policy because the law does not include “a designee” in the appeal process. The committee agreed to wait for further clarification from their school board attorney.
Although we do not have a final vote from the LCPS school board, our appeal was well received during committee discussion. After final revisions, the committee will present the document to the board. HEAV will continue to monitor the board’s activity.
A similar situation could happen just as easily in your school district. One wrong policy can make a big impact on thousands of parents. In order to protect our freedom to homeschool, it’s critical that HEAV is quickly made aware of school board proposals that are inconsistent with the law. This can only happen with your help!
HEAV needs you to help us watch school board activities—and it’s easier than you might think. Because all board meetings are now virtual, you can find board agendas online and even view meetings online if you want. HEAV has set up a simple reporting database so you can quickly contact us. Based on your input, HEAV will decide if action needs to be taken. It shouldn’t take more than an hour each month, on your own schedule, from your own home.
Would you join HEAV’s school board monitoring team to help us protect your rights? We are looking for committed volunteers to be our eyes and ears.
Our freedom to homeschool depends on all of us working together. If you are willing to help, please contact the HEAV office at 804-278-9200 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be glad to provide more details.
PS—To view committee testimony, follow this link to the March 18, Pupil Services Committee video: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/loudoun/Board.nsf/Public#
Scott Woodruff speaks at 4:20
Yvonne Bunn speaks at 7:40
Discussion of draft at 1:01:30 – 1:25:15