Monday, April 28, 2014

Home-schooling Provides Alternative to Traditional Public Schools

Ohio’s “compulsory attendance” law requires all parents or guardians to send their children between the ages of 6 and 18 to a school that meets the State Board of Education’s minimum standards.

Q:       Can my children be excused from compulsory school attendance to be homeschooled? 
A:        Yes. You can ask your children’s public school district to excuse them from the compulsory attendance requirement so you can teach them at home (known as “homeschooling”).

Q:       If I want to homeschool, must I be my children’s teacher? 
A:        Not necessarily. A parent need not be the homeschool teacher, but the teacher must be deemed qualified to teach the state-required subjects and must, at minimum, have a high school diploma/GED or standardized test scores demonstrating high school equivalence.

Q:       What if I don’t have the minimum qualifications to teach my children at home? 
A:        If you are not minimally qualified, but want to provide the instruction yourself, you must find someone with a college degree to supervise your teaching until your child’s test results demonstrate reasonable proficiency or until you obtain a high school diploma or GED.
Q:       Who decides if I am qualified to homeschool my child?
A:        You will need to apply to the superintendent of the public school your child currently attends or is entitled to attend. The superintendent will examine your application and determine whether you are minimally qualified according to state requirements. 

Q;       What information must I provide on my homeschooling application?
A:        On your application (usually provided by the superintendent), you must give basic personal information and agree to provide your child with a minimum of 900 hours of home education each school year. Subject areas must include language, reading, spelling, writing, geography, national and state history, national, state and local government, mathematics, science, health, physical education, fine arts (including music), first aid, safety and fire prevention. You must also provide a brief outline of the intended curriculum and a list of teaching materials to be used.

Q:       What if our family’s religious beliefs conflict with the state’s required subject matter? 
A:        You do not have to include any concept, topic or practice that conflicts with sincerely held religious beliefs. 

Q:       How long does it take for my homeschooling application to be reviewed?
A:        The superintendent must review any application within 14 calendar days of receipt and determine if it is complete and complies with minimal requirements. If it is acceptable, the superintendent will excuse your child from school attendance for the remainder of the current school year. If incomplete or unacceptable, the superintendent will notify you and give you 14 calendar days to supply any necessary information.
            If the superintendent still denies your application, he or she must provide reasons for the denial and inform you of your right to a due process hearing. After the due process hearing, the superintendent will make a final determination. If your application is denied again, you have 10 days to appeal to the county juvenile judge. 
            Until the superintendent approves your homeschool application, your child must attend school. 

Q:       If I homeschool my children, must I show evidence of their academic progress?
A:        Yes. For each school year completed at home, you must submit to the superintendent: 1) the results of a nationally-normed, standardized achievement test; 2) a written narrative report prepared by a licensed teacher or a mutually agreed-upon third party; or 3) an alternative agreed-upon academic assessment.

Q:       What if my child isn’t meeting the necessary proficiency levels? 
A:        You must show the superintendent an appropriate remediation plan and provide quarterly updates on your child’s progress. 

Q:       Can my children re-enroll in the public school? 
A:        Yes. Your children can enroll or re-enroll in their residential public school district. The superintendent determines the appropriate placement considering your children’s most recent annual academic assessment report, scores on standardized achievement tests and other evaluation information. 

Q:       Is online schooling the same as homeschooling?
A:        No. Most online schools are publicly funded charter schools (“community schools”) where instruction is provided by a licensed teacher. 

Q:       Can my homeschooled child participate in a school district’s sports programs and extracurricular activities? 
A:        Yes. Ohio law now allows homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities offered by the public school they are entitled to attend. The law only applies to programs not included in any graded course, and homeschooled children must meet the same nonacademic requirements (e.g., tryouts) and financial requirements (e.g., payment of fees) as other participating children.

Q:       Will my homeschooled children get a regular high school diploma? 
A:        The State Board of Education does not recognize high school diplomas of homeschooled children. Also, colleges or employers may require homeschooled children to complete the GED test or other assessments to show they have met requirements that are equivalent to a high school diploma.

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by attorney Mark A. Weiker of the Columbus firm Means, Bichimer, Burkholder & Baker Co., LPA, a member of the OSBA Education Committee. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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