By Lynn R. Mitchell
Hampton City homeschool parents are facing issues with the local public school system that have not yet been resolved and is being looked into by Home Educators Association of Virginia, the statewide homeschool organization. Yvonne Bunn, HEAV’s Director of Legislative Affairs, sent an update that is important for homeschool parents in that area so I’m reposting it here:
It is HEAV’s goal to maintain a good relationship with school districts–and we have for many years. We want to work with superintendents and their staff in every way possible within the parameters of the law.
When we become aware of requirements that go beyond the homeschool statute and overstep the rights of parents, we respond to the concerns of parents and, when necessary, respectfully communicate with school officials who may or may not understand the homeschool law. In most cases, we are able to come to a good resolution.
Correction: Hampton City School Board
To begin, I would like to correct an earlier statement: the Hampton City school board did NOT adopt a new policy, as stated previously, that changed the information on the forms posted on their website. After reviewing Hampton City Schools’ board minutes, we have found no public record of discussion or opportunity for public input. It appears the new homeschool requirements and changes on the forms were made by someone other than the elected school board; however, we know Hampton City’s school board attorney Ms. Nanci Reaves approved the changes.
The new forms erroneously put all homeschoolers under “exemption from compulsory attendance laws.” The forms also ask for information–including the student’s date of birth, grade level, and details about alternative program enrollment–not required by the statute. Parents and students who are older than ten are asked to sign under oath and have their signatures notarized by a Notary Public. Many have been told that only Hampton City’s website forms will be accepted, and not any other. None of these requirements are part of the homeschool statute §22.1-254.1.
We continue to attempt to communicate with the Hampton City Schools’ superintendent, homeschool liaison, and school board attorney. I have spoken several times with the new homeschool liaison Dr. Bruce Copeland, who has offered little explanation for the changes other than to say that according to the school board attorney, they are within the law. This is where we disagree.
HEAV wrote a letter to Dr. Linda Shifflette, Superintendent of Hampton City Schools, on July 22, explaining our concerns and asking for a meeting to address these issues–Dr. Copeland was copied on this correspondence. During the past three weeks, repeated phone calls to Dr. Shifflette were made requesting a meeting to resolve these concerns–especially in light of the fast-approaching August 15 Notice of Intent deadline–with no appointment forthcoming.
Earlier this week, a phone call was received from school board attorney Nanci Reaves, who insisted their interpretation of the law was correct, and that Hampton City Schools had every right to require whatever they needed in order for the superintendent to fulfill her duties. I replied that the duties of the superintendent regarding homeschoolers are clear, and Hampton City Schools should not override the rights of parents. By the end of the conversation, Ms. Reaves indicated they may consider some changes to their forms, but could not be specific on the changes.
Things to Remember
For those in Hampton–or any other school district–here are some things to remember:
- Know the law. Read it for yourself.
- When sending your Notice of Intent–whether by letter or an NOI form–only provide the information required by law. The following information is not required under the homeschool statute: birth dates, social security numbers, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, notarized signatures, special-needs information, and use of particular forms. Your right to homeschool is not based on providing this information on a particular form.
- You are not filing an “application” to homeschool or asking the superintendent’s permission. Neither are you waiting for the superintendent’s “approval” or response to begin homeschooling. The law does not require a superintendent to respond–and some don’t.
Filing a Notice of Intent
You may mail your NOI or hand-deliver it to the superintendent’s office. With either way of notifying, be sure to keep a copy of your NOI and get a receipt. If you mail it, send it Certified Return Receipt (green postcard), or use the new Certified Return Receipt Electronic Confirmation. An August 15 postmark is acceptable.
If you hand-deliver the NOI, ask the secretary for a dated, signed receipt indicating they have received your NOI. The receipt is evidence you have complied with the law by filing on or before August 15.
Let Us Know
Please let us know if you have any difficulty with notification. Call HEAV at 804-278-9200 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. HEAV will be glad to work with you to resolve any misunderstandings.
Please encourage other homeschooling parents not to be intimidated. Don’t give up the homeschool freedoms we have all worked so hard to protect. If we’re not willing to take a stand, our rights will slip away one small step at a time.