Editor: Homeschooling in Virginia is under attack. It is under attack by certain members of our very own Loudoun County School Board.
Recently School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) put forward a motion within the Legislative and Policy Committee to effectively remove the right to religious exemption exercised by a minority of the homeschooling population in Loudoun County.
Why would Mr. Marshall be concerned about such a small group of homeschooling families? In his Sept. 29, email to the committee and copied to board members, Mr. Marshall states that the motion is in the name of “child safety.” He goes on to assert that “in order to fulfill our responsibility to protect children, we need to see the children or students prior to granting any exemption…”
Numerous concerns immediately come to mind regarding the proposed legislative changes in light of this stated rationale. Reading between the lines of that document, the reasoning is effectively based on the premise that the public school system should usurp the role of the parent(s). In other words, homeschooling parents should be forced to report regularly to “school personnel” in the name of “child safety” so that the “school personnel” can establish their position “on the front line” of families’ lives, and “fulfill [their] responsibility to protect children.”
Of course, the next logical step based on this rationale would be for the public school system to interfere with parent’s rights to homeschool their children in general, not just those who claim religious exemption. These “child safety” concerns are misdirected. It may be easily and persuasively argued that there are greater safety concerns within the public school system than there are within the homeschool community.
The argument has evolved since the proposal was originally conceived: proponents of the measure now say the change is necessary to fix a “loophole” that might fail to mandate that children in families claiming religious exemption receive an education. If this is truly the concern, I would be interested in seeing the hard evidence of such cases—religiously exempt families not satisfactorily home educating their children—occurring within Loudoun County.
The Dec. 4, committee meeting would be an appropriate time for the committee to present such evidence to the public. It seems that Loudoun County School Board is searching for a solution to a problem that simply does not exist. Regardless of whether the proposal is being rationalized in the name of “child safety” or compulsory education, the proposal put forth by School Board would result in an unjustifiable expansion of school board authority into the lives of homeschooling families throughout Virginia.
Suzanne Smart, Leesburg