Homeschooling Parents Declared to be ‘Bona Fide’ Guardians and Won’t Face Jail

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bona-fideThere 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. From

There’s con­tro­ver­sy in Goochland over home­school­ing. It all stems from a new pol­i­cy that some par­ents believe vio­lates their rights. The pol­i­cy being ques­tioned affects fam­i­lies who home­school for reli­gious reasons.

In the past, par­ents had to reach out for per­mis­sion to teach their chil­dren at home. But now, the dis­trict wants to ensure kids are on board with their parent’s plan. Some­thing that’s not sit­ting well with The Pruiett’s, who home­school all six of their children.

After ten years of home­school­ing, approved by the Goochland Coun­ty School Dis­trict, the fam­i­ly was stunned to receive a let­ter telling them they need­ed to reap­ply for the reli­gious exemp­tion that enables them to teach at home.

We had 30 days to com­ply or be for­ward­ed for pros­e­cu­tion, ” says Doug Pruiett.

The school board chair­per­son tells 8News, the pol­i­cy enforces a state statute that requires both par­ents and stu­dents request home­school­ing based on reli­gious beliefs. But the Pruiett’s insist the pol­i­cy inter­feres with their rights to raise their chil­dren as they see fit.

Doug Prui­ett main­tains, “I don’t believe the school board has the author­i­ty nor should they to inter­fere with fam­i­lies school­ing their chil­dren this way.”

Here is a report on the meet­ing last night from atten­dees. From

…..I was at this board meet­ing last night – in the front row – spoke, as did about 40 oth­ers, all but per­haps one strong­ly stat­ing the many rea­sons that the board’s deci­sion was wrong.

The turnout by coun­ty res­i­dents was over­whelm­ing, sev­er­al hun­dred with stand­ing room only. It turned out to be a 1776 event, and utter­ly awe­some as one after anoth­er res­i­dent clear­ly pro­vid­ed rea­son­ing as to why the board’s new pol­i­cy was wrong. The crowd was almost 100% sup­port­ing the over­turn­ing of the board’s action in 2013 that result­ed in the Pruitt fam­i­ly being threat­ened with legal action requir­ing their chil­dren to legal­ly attest to their desire to be homeschooled.

About 5 attor­neys spoke elo­quent­ly, being so respect­ed by the board that the board begged for help in how they should address the issue. One home­school­ing attor­ney moth­er, a tiny gal on fire, was awe­some, as was the HDLA, and oth­ers from pro-home­school­ing groups.

But the attorney’s weren’t the only one’s hit­ting home runs – so many of the oth­er speak­ers did as well and if I tried to detail each one this would be a book.

Sev­er­al board mem­bers were clear­ly get­ting the mes­sage, a cou­ple pub­licly repent­ing of adopt­ing their policy.

The final issue agreed to by all and pre­sent­ed by almost all the speak­ers was parental respon­si­bil­i­ty – and that up to 18, par­ents are total­ly respon­si­ble for their chil­dren under not only our reli­gious exemp­tion, but by a 2013 Vir­ginia law, Vir­ginia code 22.1–254(B)(1), that clear­ly states this. An astute home­shool­ing attor­ney father pre­sent­ed this point.

The over 4 hour meet­ing was tru­ly free­dom in action, and in the end, the board rescind­ed the pol­i­cy that was threat­en­ing the Pruitt fam­i­ly, and almost uni­ver­sal­ly sup­port­ed the peti­tions of those who showed up to protest the destruc­tion of their free­dom in our coun­ty – a gen­er­al­ly very con­ser­v­a­tive one.

I’m not doing jus­tice to all that was said and done in this lengthy meet­ing – there was too much to post here – but it was an awe­some expe­ri­ence – and free­dom won……

Here is anoth­er response from the same blog explain­ing the ‘bona fide’ word­ing requir­ing a stu­dent to declare his/her reli­gious belief:

This is way too com­plex to get into here.

VA has long allowed both home­school­ing (where fam­i­lies have to tell the school board they are doing it, AND “Reli­gious Exemp­tion” from any school­ing based on reli­gious beliefs. The two are com­plete­ly sep­a­rate and different.

Home­school­ing requires, among oth­er things, noti­fi­ca­tion, and pro­vid­ing the school board with your cur­ric­u­la, mat­er­als, syn­op­sis, and reg­u­lar testing.

Reli­gious exemp­tion requires none of those things at all, but is a dec­la­ra­tion by the fam­i­ly they are not bound by the law that requires chil­dren to be in school by their reli­gious con­vic­tions. This only requires noti­fy­ing the board of your inten­tion to be exempt and noth­ing else.

VA law is here:–254

And here is the crit­i­cal section:

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 WASBONA FIDE”.

Sev­er­al board mem­bers were VERY uncom­fort­able with this, but 4 to 1 vot­ed in Dec. to require the child to prove their “bona fide” belief to the school board under this sec­tion of VA Law. They devel­oped a hor­ri­ble, inter­rog­a­tive ques­tion­aire that was required of pupils claim­ing the reli­gious exemp­tion. This is where they went off.

A hor­ri­ble ques­tion­aire was then required of those claim­ing “Reli­gious exemp­tion” which real­ly doesn’t required the par­ents to edu­cate their chil­dren at al!.

Wife and I are in the front row in this video…

What do you think is the orig­i­nal school board pol­i­cy intent to man­date 14 year old home­schooled stu­dents declare their reli­gious belief? Why should this have to be pro­vid­ed to any gov­ern­men­tal agency? Does the belief of a 14 year old trump parental author­i­ty? What would hap­pen if a 14 year old stat­ed he/she was agnos­tic? Would the State then pre­sume it had the author­i­ty to take this child from a Chris­t­ian house­hold because the par­ents’ teach­ings vio­lat­ed the child’s rights/beliefs?