According to an attorney for the largest U.S. legal organization for homeschool families, schools across the country are making it difficult for parents to withdraw their children and homeschool them, a burgeoning trend since the lockdowns instituted nationwide took effect.
T.J. Schmidt, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), told Fox News, “We see this across the country. I’ve had school officials attempt to prevent or dissuade parents from pulling their kids out.” Schmidt theorized two possible reasons for the difficulty in processing the necessary paperwork: the schools have been understaffed because of the effects of the coronavirus, or the schools are simply afraid of losing students.
Schmidt stated, “There’s two main reasons … school officials are fearful of losing too many students to homeschooling, and the second reason is perhaps a staffing issue, just a lacking staffing issue to process these withdrawals. Not always an issue of trying to stop parents from homeschooling but there is a significant part of that involved.”
Another salient fact: some of the funds public schools receive depend on how many students are enrolled. As The Washington Post noted in 2015, “Traditionally, public schools are funded based on their total student enrollment.”
“A RealClear Opinion Research survey shows that 40 percent of families are more likely to homeschool when lockdown restrictions lift, a significant increase from the 2.5 million parents who were educating their kids at home before stay-at-home orders were put in place,” Fox News noted.
Schmidt, who homeschools his seven children, continued, “The most egregious situations I’ve had have been in Florida,” although he pointed out Florida has traditionally been quite hospitable for homeschooling. He said, “But I’ve had numerous parents in a couple of different counties told ‘we’re not allowed to withdraw students right now’ … They’re trying to hold onto these students.”
There are a variety of reasons parents are choosing homeschooling now. Some of these families were already contemplating homeschooling and COVID-19 pushed them over the edge. Other families are concerned about how the districts have addressed the situation. Whether it’s a basic miscommunication or something more nefarious where they’re actively working to prohibit parents from educating their children at home, HSLDA steps in making sure we’re defending the family, providing assistance and support. Our goal is to make sure they understand the legal requirements, the responsibilities, and even the joys of homeschooling.
In Harvard Magazine‘s May-June issue, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet urged a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling, calling it “dangerous.” She wrote: “The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous. I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”
Michael Donnelly, director of global outreach and senior counsel for HSLDA, fired back:
Bartholet’s dystopian recommendations are tone-deaf and have provoked a firestorm of response from political and religious perspectives – as well they should have. Her obvious distrust of average Americans is loud and clear … Bartholet’s call for a presumptive ban on homeschooling because she considers American homeschooling parents too ignorant or too religious goes against the weight of decades of scholarly research on homeschooling which demonstrates positive academic, civic and social outcomes.
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