Virginia Homeschooling and Religious Affiliation

By A.P. Dillon

Last week, I highlighted an article that appeared in the NY Times that called into question the fundamental right to homeschool. The NY Times article focused a bit on Pennsylvania but, this week, a story garnered headlines coming out of Virginia.  This story out of Virginia is in the same flavor as the NY Times piece: We know best for your child and there might be problems if parents decide what is best.

This controversy stems from a school board decision in 2013 which essentially removed the rights of parents who wish to homeschool their children based on religious objections. This board’s decision was to impose a restriction on homeschooling that children of a certain age had to agree to be homeschooled and declare their religious affiliation.

The board ultimately voted to repeal the 2013 rule.

Missouri Education Watchdog (MEW) reported the heart of the story:

There was a spirited meeting at the Gooch County (VA) School Board last night as hundreds of people attended to show their concern about a district policy that homeschooled students (at age 14) must declare their religious affiliation.

Read the whole thing.

MEW goes on to quote attendees of the meeting. The second quoted excerpt hits the core of the argument, which is that the school board was forcing people to prove and defend their religious beliefs.  Here’s part of that second quoted passage, emphasis added:

“B. 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. For purposes of this subdivision, “bona fide religious training or belief” does not include essentially political, sociological or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code; and”

In 2013 the board decided, based on lawsuits in Fairfax and another VA county that the wording “Any PUPIL along with his parents…….”by reason of bona fide religious training or belief” meant that the board was required to determine if the BELIEF OF THE PUPIL WAS “BONA FIDE”.

Here are some useful sources on Virginia homeschooling laws: VA Homeschoolers, HSLDA Virginia 2014-15 brief, Virginia Dept. of Education Home Instruction handbook.

Switching gears to North Carolina, we see another line of attack:

I’ll restate the closing I made in the article from yesterday on this tweet:

If Dr. Atkinson is attempting to make the argument that part of the ‘school choice’ made by parents and students needs to fit into a one-size-fits all public school testing regimen, she’s missed the point of ‘choice’ entirely.