Back to School Info: Virginia Homeschool Laws
Are you faced with questionable requirements from your superintendent’s office? Are you wondering if the Virginia homeschool laws have changed?
No, the homeschool laws have not changed. However, HEAV has found that some school districts—perhaps unintentionally—are asking for more information than the law requires at various processing points.For the past 38 years, HEAV has provided accurate information and effective legislation to protect your rights to homeschool. We have also worked—and continue to work—with school boards and superintendents to make sure their policies and requirements are consistent with the homeschool statute, §22.1-254.1.
Because of COVID, there has been a move toward implementing new online processes for receiving homeschool information. The development of new portals and forms has led to some requests for additional information.
For instance, many districts indicate parents must use their district’s online portal for notice of intent (NOI) submission. These portals often include mandatory fields that prevent you from submitting the form unless all sections have been completed. Some required fields may ask for information the law does not require. That’s a dilemma. First, Virginia homeschool laws do not require the submission of an NOI by any particular method. There are other ways to submit your NOI form or letter: hand-delivery, scan and email, or USPS mail. It is still your choice.
Second, the law does not require you to provide more information than the homeschool statute requires. Regardless of convenience or internal public school policy, parents are only required to comply with the requirements of §22.1-254.1.
OTHER AREAS OF CONCERN
Virginia Homeschool Laws
HEAV addressed the following concerns in a recent letter to all 133 district superintendents. I also want you to be aware of these points in the event it is necessary to respond to any undue requirements.
- BIRTHDATE AND GRADE: A child’s birthdate or grade level is not required when notifying. Providing the child’s age as of September 30 is consistent with compulsory attendance laws. §22.1-254(A)
- NOTIFICATION, NOT PERMISSION: The statute requires parents to annually notify the superintendent of their intent to provide home instruction and provide evidence of how they have complied with the law. The statute does not require a parent to ask permission to homeschool or wait for a response—only to notify. §22.1-254.1(B)
- SCHOOL WITHDRAWAL: When withdrawing a student from public school, Virginia homeschool laws do not require parents—provided they have complied with the statute and have evidence of notifying the superintendent of their intention to homeschool—to wait for a response or permission from the superintendent before withdrawing their child and beginning to homeschool. §22.1-254.1(B)
- NOI SUBMISSION: The statute does not specify a particular method or form of delivery when a parent notifies the superintendent of his or her intent to provide home instruction. It does not require the use of a particular paper form, electronic form, or website portal.
- RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION: The school board, not the superintendent, has the responsibility of acknowledging religious exemption (RE). The statute does not require a parent to submit RE information to the superintendent before submitting it to the school board. §22.1-254(B)
- DOCUMENTATION NOT REQUIRED: Homeschool parents are not required to complete public school surveys or provide homeschool termination forms, homeschool diplomas, or transcripts upon graduation.
- IMMUNIZATION RECORDS: Providing immunization records is not required to homeschool according to the declaration of policy and requirements for home instruction (§22.1-254.1). While all parents of school-age children must comply with immunization laws, parents cannot be denied the right to homeschool based on not providing vaccination records. The law is specific that only the superintendent may request and receive these private medical records. Vaccination exemptions are also available. §22.1-271.4, §32.1-46(D)
- CURRICULUM DESCRIPTION: A description of curriculum is limited to a list of subjects the parent plans to teach during the coming year. §22.1-254.1(B)
- COMPOSITE SCORE: Parents who choose to provide the results of a stadardized achievement test are required to provide a composite score in or above the 4th stanine to show academic progress. Sub-test scores are not required. §22.1-254.1(C)
- CERTIFIED TUTOR OPTIONS: A Virginia certified tutor (teacher) has two options: 1) comply with §22.1-254(A), the compulsory attendance law, with no requirements as long as they provide evidence of current teacher certification in a letter to the superintendent, or 2) comply with §22.1-254.1(A)(ii), the home instruction statute, by providing a notice of intent and selecting option (ii) that requires yearly notification, a curriculum description, and annual assessment.
- OTHER ASSESSMENT OPTIONS: Districts must notify parents of the availability of AP, PSAT, ACT, and Pre-ACT tests and financial assistance. §22.1-254.1(F)
- JROTC AVAILABILITY: Public high schools that offer JROTC must include qualified homeschool students in their JROTC programs. 116th Congress, H.R. 2500, Code Section 2031 of Title 10, USC (g)(1), National Defense Authorization Act
- HOMESCHOOL PRIVACY: School divisions are prohibited from sharing information provided by parents who comply with the homeschool statutes (§22.1-254, §22.1-254.1) other than sharing with the VDOE the numbers of homeschoolers in their districts. §22.1-254.1(G)
Superintendents cannot add to the requirements of the homeschool statute by developing new policy or requesting additional information and requiring compliance. For more details, see the 2020 Virginia Supreme Court ruling below.
As the August 15 notification deadline approaches, carefully review your NOI form. We recommend HEAV’s NOI that only includes the information the law requires. Although some superintendents may acknowledge receipt of your NOI, they are not required by law to respond.
Documentation of compliance with the law is the parent’s responsibility. Completing a paper NOI form or a written notification and mailing it using a certified/return receipt from the post office provides evidence that you have complied with the law.
Please call our office at 804-278-9200 if you have questions.
You will also find helpful information at www.heav.org.
Director of Government Affairs
IMPORTANT VIRGINIA SUPREME COURT RULING
In 2020 the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in an important HSLDA case, Sosebee v. Franklin County School Board, that school boards cannot legislate or require more information than the elected state legislators have clearly outlined in the statute. The court ruled that “the power to amend statutes is the power to make law; that power rests squarely and solely on the General Assembly, not school boards.”