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HJ 92

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Mrs. Field (almost) goes to Richmond

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If you follow homeschooling groups on facebook or get the e-lerts from the HSLDA,¬† you’ve probably already heard about Virginia’s House Joint Resolution 92. Delegate Rust proposed HJ 92, and if it passes it will ask the Virginia Department of Education to evaluate how they implement the “religious exemption” statute.

You also might have heard about the “religious exemption.” In Virginia, homeschooling parents are able to use the religious exemption to not educate their children at all, and it is completely up to the parents whether or not their children get an education, with absolutely no oversight or accountability of any kind. In families like the Powell’s, this lack of oversight has created a situation where parents are under no obligation to even teach their children to read. That is in direct violation of the Virginia State Constitution, which states that every child has a right to an education.

This is because the wording of the religious exemption statue is so incredibly vague that school boards don’t know how to enforce it, and they are required to make a decision with no guidelines and no credible information. Because there aren’t any limits or qualifications, overtaxed school boards are required to make case-by-case decisions, and how school boards make these decisions varies from county to county. There’s also no requirement for school boards to take a child’s desire into account– for example, when Joshua Powell went to his school board begging to be enrolled in public school, the board cited the fact that his parents had a “religious exemption”– he wouldn’t be allowed to attend school even though he desperately wanted to get out. It took him many years to recover from his homeschooling experience.

All that HJ 92 is is a request for the Virginia Department of Education to look into how individual school boards make their decisions regarding the religious exemption statute, and to report those findings to the state assembly. That’s it.

Personally, I am enthusiastically supportive of this resolution. It requires absolutely nothing of parents or homeschooling families– but it would still be able to offer us the most comprehensive look at a state homeschooling policy… pretty much in the history of modern homeschooling.

I was supposed¬† to be in Richmond today* with Virginian homeschoolers, meeting with the delegates who can vote this resolution out of committee, explaining why HJ 92 is so important and asking them to support it. If you’re a Virginian homeschooler or homeschool graduate¬† and you can get to Richmond, consider setting up a meeting with your delegate and asking him or her to support it– or just calling his or her office.

If you’re not a Virginian, you can still get involved.

You could sign this petition.

You could consider donating to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (tax deductible).

Or, you could donate to Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (not tax deductible).

If you have the time, you could start reading Homeschooling’s Invisible Children and Homeschoolers Anonymous. Share stories you think people you know would be interested in. If you know a homeschooling family, bring what you’ve learned up in conversations when you can and if you want to. If you want to get involved in more activism, there’s working groups and new networks– I can get you in touch with some if you’re interested.

Hopefully today is a good day.

*I had a sudden costochondritis flare up. The only way to treat it is to stay in bed and take ungodly amounts of Advil.