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HEAV Is Looking Out for You

Homeschool Incident Communications

Through the efforts of your HEAV Homeschool Support and Government Affairs and your School Board Monitor Teams, HEAV keeps you informed of Virginia homeschool incidents by school district. 

King William County

A parent contacted HEAV after a school official indicated, at the end of the year, her child will need to be tested, “…on the subjects that he is taking this year.” After HEAV equipped the parent with accurate information and resources relating to the evidence of progress requirement in the law, she was able to resolve the confusion with the district.

What You Should Know:

  • The law does not require parents to provide evidence of progress for every subject studied.
  • Parents may choose from several evidence-of-progress options available in the law. These include various forms of achievement tests and evaluations or assessments.
  • For the test option, the law requires, “…a composite score in or above the fourth stanine on any nationally normed standardized achievement test, or an equivalent score on the ACT, SAT, or PSAT test.”
  • A composite score is usually made up of language arts and mathematics.
  • References: HEAV Law Flowchart, HEAV Q&A: Evidence of Progress, HEAV Q&A: Composite Scores, Home Instruction Law

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

Stafford County

A parent contacted HEAV after receiving written correspondence from a local school official advising that her child will be marked absent until they receive notification of the “approval” of her homeschool “application.” HEAV corresponded with division counsel regarding the importance of processing notice of intents promptly and ensuring school personnel communicate the law accurately to parents.

Stafford’s division counsel thanked HEAV for sharing our concerns and advised they will continue ongoing efforts to ensure staff use correct terminology regarding home instruction and understand the governing statute. Counsel also thanked HEAV for the educational resources provided on our website. HEAV appreciates Stafford’s prompt and positive response.

What You Should Know:

  • It is not uncommon for district personnel to be unfamiliar with the law.
  • HEAV believes it is essential for each parent to know the law for themselves (see “Reference” section below).
  • The law does not indicate public school districts have the statutory authority to “approve” a parent’s decision to enroll in a private school, hire a Virginia-certified tutor, or homeschool.
  • The law states: “Any parent who…begins home instruction after the school year has begun shall notify the division superintendent of his intention to provide home instruction as soon as practicable and shall thereafter comply with the requirements of this section within 30 days of such notice.”
  • The superintendent is responsible for promptly processing legal homeschool documentation and updating their systems.
    If the superintendent’s office does not process a notice of intent and update public school systems promptly, an inappropriate truancy investigation may be triggered. This could result in an unnecessary burden to both district staff and parents.
  • Reference: HEAV Law Flowchart, HEAV’s Information for School Personnel, HEAV’s 2023 Letter to Superintendents, HEAV’s Notice of Intent Form, Compulsory Attendance Law, Home Instruction Law

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

Charles City

The HEAV legislative team reached out to the district to address website text that seemed to indicate parents were required to use the district’s NOI form. Further, the district’s NOI form included data fields that went beyond the statutory requirements as well as NOI option (iii) information that was inconsistent with VDOE guidance.

HEAV received a prompt and friendly response from the superintendent to advise they were working to ensure the website and all documents were updated to reflect the district’s policy. The superintendent also thanked HEAV for our continued partnership with Virginia school districts and Charles City County Public Schools. HEAV has confirmed the items of concern have been corrected. We are thankful to Charles City for this positive response.

What You Should Know:

  • Parents may wish to use HEAV’s NOI form as it is consistent with the law, case law, and VDOE guidance.
  • The law does not require parents to fill out district forms or provide personal data beyond what the statute allows.
  • The law states parents notifying under option (iii) must submit evidence they are providing the child, “with a program of study or curriculum, which may be delivered through a correspondence course or distance learning program or in any other manner.”
  • The Virginia Department of Education provides the following guidance for option (iii): “If the child is enrolled in a correspondence course or distance learning program, the parent must submit evidence of such enrollment and a list of the subjects to be studied for the coming year to the school division; however, no judgment of the materials is required of the school division superintendent. If the teaching parent provides a program of study or curriculum that is delivered through any other manner, a list of the courses to be studied for the coming year must be submitted to the school division. Submission of these materials is for information purposes only.”
  • Reference: HEAV Law Flowchart, HEAV’s Notice Of Intent Form, HEAV Q&A: Birth Dates and Grade Levels On District NOI Forms, Virginia Supreme Court: Sosebee v. Franklin County School Board, VDOE 2023 Home Instruction Handbook, Compulsory Attendance Law, Home Instruction Law

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

King George County

The HEAV legislative team reached out to the superintendent after identifying several concerns located on the district’s website and notice of intent form. We addressed instances where district resources were inconsistent with the law, a directive for parents to follow a particular office processing preference or risk having their legal homeschool documents discarded, and an instruction for parents not to send homeschool documents via certified mail or they may either not be received or processing may be delayed.

After several months and follow-up inquiries, HEAV is pleased to report we have seen positive updates on the district’s website and NOI form. All items of concern have been addressed. HEAV is thankful to King George for ensuring the information provided to parents is consistent with the law and best practices.

What You Should Know:

  • It is not uncommon for district resources to be inconsistent with the law. HEAV believes it is essential for each parent to know the law for themselves. HEAV’s website contains a wealth of information, and HEAV’s NOI form is consistent with the law, VDOE guidance, and case law.
  • In Sosebee vs. Franklin County, Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons states, “The power to amend statutes is the power to make law; that power rests squarely and solely with the General Assembly, not school boards.”
  • Parents are required to comply with the law. Once they have done so, HEAV believes it is the responsibility of each public school district to ensure legal, homeschool documents are processed properly in the district office and to receive and provide signatures for mail delivered to the published mailing address.
  • The law does not require parents to comply with office processing preferences including preferred submission dates, submission formats, or delivery methods.
  • The compulsory attendance law applies to “…any child who will have reached the fifth birthday on or before September 30 of any school year and who has not passed the eighteenth birthday.”
  • The law requires parents to submit an annual notice of intent by August 15th and annual evidence of progress by August 1st.
  • The law does not indicate parents must provide their child’s date of birth when notifying the school board of their decision to delay enrollment; the compulsory attendance law is based on a child’s age as of September 30th.
  • The law indicates home Instruction is a way to comply with compulsory attendance law whereas religious exemption is an exemption from compulsory attendance law.
  • The law states parents notifying under option (iii) must submit evidence they are providing the child, “with a program of study or curriculum, which may be delivered through a correspondence course or distance learning program or in any other manner.”
  • The Virginia Department of Education provides the following guidance for option (iii): “If the child is enrolled in a correspondence course or distance learning program, the parent must submit evidence of such enrollment and a list of the subjects to be studied for the coming year to the school division; however, no judgment of the materials is required of the school division superintendent. If the teaching parent provides a program of study or curriculum that is delivered through any other manner, a list of the courses to be studied for the coming year must be submitted to the school division. Submission of these materials is for information purposes only.” (Reference: VDOE Home Instruction Handbook, p. 5)
  • Reference: 7 Steps to Begin Homeschooling In Virginia, Notifying Under Option (iii), HEAV Law Flowchart, HEAV’s Information For School Personnel, HEAV’s 2023 Letter to Superintendents, HEAV’s Notice Of Intent Form, Virginia Supreme Court: Sosebee v. Franklin County School Board, VDOE 2023 Home Instruction Handbook, Compulsory Attendance Law, Home Instruction Law

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

Shenandoah County

A parent, who knew home instruction did not require approval, expressed concern that the district was using the phrase, “approval is granted for you to homeschool” on its homeschool acknowledgement letter. Upon further investigation, the HEAV legislative team also found the district incorrectly indicted the requirement for the description of curriculum was a “Program of Studies – list of classes.” After reaching out to the district with these concerns, HEAV was pleased to learn they chose to consult their attorney to ensure accuracy in their communications to parents.

After two months of inquiry, HEAV was advised by the supervisor of student support services simply that, “We have made the necessary changes.” HEAV is thankful for Shenandoah’s response to these concerns, and we are hopeful parents will see positive changes and accurate information communicated in the future on their NOI acknowledgement letters.

What You Should Know:

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

Roanoke County

The HEAV legislative team found several items of concern located on the district’s website and notice of intent-related forms including the use of inaccurate terms such as enrollment, application, and approval along with incorrect information relating to NOI option (iii) and the curriculum description and personal data requirements. After over seven weeks and three inquiries, HEAV heard back from the district regarding our concerns.

HEAV was advised by the assistant superintendent the district made “some adjustments accordingly.” HEAV found most of the concerns HEAV presented were, indeed, resolved. However, the birth date and grade level fields were not indicated as optional fields on the district’s NOI form. HEAV is thankful to Roanoke County for the corrections that were made.

What You Should Know:

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

Prince Edward County 02/14/24

Since August of 2023, HEAV has corresponded with the Prince Edward school board addressing a multitude of concerns with the district’s religious exemption policy and subsequent board meeting discussions. Despite HEAV’s diligent efforts, the board has adopted a policy that includes an annual reporting requirement imposed for families who are exempted from Virginia’s compulsory education law for religious reasons. According to the superintendent, the effort behind the move is not to “lose children.” HEAV disagrees with the district’s action.

The final draft copy of the religious exemption policy, JEG-R, states, “Parents must submit a letter of intent to home school for any reason to the school division superintendent annually.” According to Prince Edward’s superintendent, the school board attorney believes the board is within its rights to impose this requirement. However, having thoroughly reviewed the board’s discussions, we believe the board is confused on the differences between an exemption from compulsory attendance due to religious reasons and complying with compulsory attendance through the home instruction law. You may hear the board’s discussions on November 8th (28m in), December 6th (27m in), and January 17th (1h, 25m in).

There has been a state-wide crackdown on public school absences. However, the law does not require families who choose a private school, a Virginia-certified tutor, or have received other types of exemptions from compulsory attendance to submit an annual “letter of intent” to the superintendent. Only religiously exempt families have been targeted by the new policy.

HEAV believes the board’s interest in tracking children has resulted in a policy that is poorly understood by the board, is inconsistent with historic and state-wide practice, and discriminately targets religiously exempt families in its district.

What You Should Know:

  • The law does not require religiously exempt families to “…submit a letter of intent to home school for any reason to the school division superintendent annually.”
  • Parents who are concerned about this policy may wish to contact an attorney such as the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
  • The religious exemption law states: “A school board shall excuse from attendance at school: 1. Any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school.”
  • The home instruction law, not the religious exemption law, states: “Any parent who elects to provide home instruction…shall annually notify the division superintendent…of his intention to so instruct the child…”
  • In Commonwealth of VA VS. Terry Foreman and Joyce Foreman, Judge Fidler notes the following in his decision: “Implicit in the language of Section 22.1-257 A2 and the other sections in Chapter 14 of Title 22.1 it is the proposition that if the defendants and their children are entitled to be excused from attendance at school because of their bona fide religious beliefs they are exempt from any other laws, rules or regulations of the local School Board with reference to public education matters.”
  • Reference: §22.1-254.(B)(1), §22.1-254.1(B), Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Religious Exemption Information, Commonwealth of Va. Vs. Terry Foreman and Joyce Foreman

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

King George County

The HEAV school board monitor team discovered a religious exemption policy that was inconsistent with the law. It stated: “Any request for exemption under Virginia Code § 22.1-254.B(1) must be submitted…four weeks before the first day of the new school year. Exceptions are to be considered on a case by case basis.” The HEAV government affairs team contacted the school board to address concerns regarding these arbitrary requirements.

After speaking with the board’s chairman, HEAV learned the intention of the policy was to provide parents guidance on how they can best comply with compulsory attendance law while waiting for their religious exemption submission to be processed. Although a noble effort was made to provide an answer to the public’s concerns, HEAV explained how the policy was inconsistent with the law and the undue burden such a policy would impose upon parents.

After receiving HEAV’s feedback, the King George school board revised the policy to state, “It is recommended that any request for exemption under Virginia Code § 22.1- 254.B(1) be submitted…before the first day of the new school year.” HEAV is thankful to the King George school board for updating their religious exemption policy to ensure it is consistent with the law.

What You Should Know:

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

Virginia Beach

HEAV contacted the school board regarding a policy stating the superintendent had authority to grant a religious exemption from compulsory attendance. However, the compulsory attendance law gives this authority solely to the school board.

In response to our concern, the school board consulted with their attorney. The attorney advised, although the school board followed the law in practice, the policy did not make this clear. He recommended changing the policy to ensure it is consistent with the law. Following his recommendation, the school board promptly revised its policy.

HEAV is thankful to the Virginia Beach school board for their consistent, top-notch public service, quick responses, effective solutions, and for the example they are to districts around the state.

What You Should Know:

  • Policies are not law. Policies should agree with the law. Parents are required to comply with the law.
  • The law states: “A school board shall excuse from attendance at school: 1. Any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school.
  • The law does not indicate that district employees have been given authority to make recommendations or act as an intermediary between a parent and the school board on the matter of religious exemption from compulsory attendance.
  • HEAV believes best practice to send religious exemption documents directly to the school board to the attention of the school board chairman. The school board is tasked to review the documentation, determine whether it reflects genuine and sincere religious beliefs; and acknowledge the children are excused from compulsory attendance. HEAV believes the acknowledgement letter should be sent from the school board directly to the parents to ensure confidentiality.
  • Reference: §22.1-254.(B)(1), HEAV Article: Religious Exemption.

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.

Prince William County

In July of 2023, HEAV contacted the Prince William superintendent’s office regarding several concerns relating to inconsistencies with the law on the district’s notice of intent form. Our concerns were acknowledged, and we were advised the forms would be up for review in October. However, after finding no changes had been made, HEAV followed up and was recently told deadlines for non-pressing issues tend to be fluid, and the new, final deadline is May 1st, 2024.

What You Should Know:

  • In regard to homeschool student data on a NOI form, parents should provide their child’s name, address, and age as of September 30. The district’s NOI form should indicate the following personal data fields as optional: grade level, date of birth, cell phone, and work phone. It does not.
  • The law requires parents to provide a “description of the curriculum, limited to a list of subjects to be studied during the coming year.” The district’s NOI form should reflect this specific language, but it leaves the curriculum description requirement subject to interpretation and overcompliance requests.
  • Parents who notify under option (iii) may provide their child with “a program of study or curriculum which may be delivered through a correspondence course or distance learning program or in any other manner.” The district’s form incorrectly requires only one type of evidence for option (iii) that confirms enrollment in a correspondence or distance learning school. It does not indicate the Virginia Department of Education suggests parents provide a list of subjects for “in any other manner.”
  • HEAV strongly encourages parents to use our NOI form that is consistent with the law, case law, and VDOE guidance (see “Reference” bullet below).
  • Reference: HEAV Notice Of Intent Form, §22.1-254.1(A)(iii), §22.1-254.1(B), VDOE Home Instruction Handbook, p. 5

HEAV is always available should you ever have questions or need assistance. Please contact us anytime at 804-278-9200 or via our contact form.

Patricia Beahr
HEAV Assistant Director of Government Affairs

‌Read more about school district incidents here.