Ms. Spears and I exchanged several email messages this morning (in my capacity as Vice President of the Tennessee Association of Church-Related Schools). I am happy to report that she has issued the following letter of clarification:
Dear Home School Parent:
It was brought to my attention that the letter sent out prior was misleading so I decided to send you the section of the law that pertains to the annual requirements of the home school parent so there would be no misunderstanding of what is expected.
In reference to section (2) (A) church related home school parents can disregard the notice mailed regarding the annual filing.
Parents who choose to independently home school are not required to personally report to the school board in person however I do like to meet my home school parents and provide them assistance as needed. If you would like to personally bring your notice of intent to my office, I will gladly sit down with you.
If the student plans to re-enroll in the public school, the parent should provide at the time of the re-enrollment a copy of the transcript of subjects the student covered while being home schooled.
Original Post follows:
There are some bureaucrats (aka educrats) who just can’t seem to grasp the idea that they are not in charge of ALL the children. Doesn’t matter what the law says, parents cannot be allowed to teach their own children un-supervised. They’re not professionals! How will we know if the children are being properly socialized?
Sharon Spears is the Attendance Supervisor for the Coffee County School System. The Coffee County seat is Manchester, 60 miles southeast of Nashville, halfway to Chattanooga, down I-24. Sharon Spears has been listed as the Attendance Supervisor since at least 2001. She’s also listed as the GED co-ordinator, she is in charge of Dropout Information, she is the Liason for Homeless Children. She is the contact person at the school system for issues relating to Juvenile Court and the Truancy Board. Perhaps she’s been too busy to ever learn what Tennessee law is concerning homeschooling. That would be kind of ironic, since her page on the Coffee County School System website has a link to the Tennessee Department of Education’s page on homeschooling where the law is clearly explained.
How do I know that she hasn’t learned the Tennessee law on homeschooling?
Here’s the text of a letter she sent to homeschooling families in Coffee County a few days ago:
(dated) July 15, 2009
To All Home School Parents:
The state requires all parents who plan to home school their children to register annually with their local school system. You will need to stop by the Coffee County Board of Education in the Administrative Plaza to complete the necessary paperwork.
If you were conducting an Independent Home School during the 2008-2009 school year, please, bring your attendance record and your child’s transcript/grades with you. The deadline for notification without penalty is September 1st.
If you have additional needs or questions, you can contact me at 931-723-5150. Thank you so much for your prompt attention to this matter.
This letter misrepresents the law in at least three very significant ways.
ONE: The State does NOT require ALL parents who wish to homeschool to register with their local school system. Parents have the CHOICE of signing up with their local school system OR with an umbrella school. If they sign up with an umbrella school, they are NOT required to sign up with the local school system.
TWO: Even Parents who have decided to homeschool AND register with the local school system do NOT have to “stop by the Coffee County Board of Education. . . to complete the necessary paperwork.” You may, and probably should file your notification by mail, with proof of delivery requested.
THREE: Parents signed up with the local school system do NOT have to supply their child’s transcript or grades to the school system. The only thing required to be reported to the local school system is attendance. And you don’t have to do it in person. Send in a calendar noting which days you conducted school with your children. Verify that the days total 180. Send it in.
Coffee County homeschoolers can safely ignore the arbitrary requirements of Ms. Spears’ letter. If you decide to homeschool and sign up with an umbrella school, you can ignore the Coffee County School System completely. If you choose to homeschool and sign up with the public school system, you can send your “notice of intent to homeschool” form in by mail. And you have no obligation to report to them anything other than your attendance records.
Ms. Spears should know better. She is attempting to require more than the law requires. She is attempting to force parents to submit records and information they are not required to submit.
She should know better. She’s been there for over eight years.
She should be ashamed of herself. However, when the misleading sections of her letter were pointed out to her, she promptly issued a “clarification document” which addressed each of these three issues and revised her requests to just those items required by state law.
And the director of schools for Coffee County, Kenny Casteel, should also be ashamed chagrined. You see, that same homeschooling law referred to on the Department of Education’s webpage contains this sentence:
“The director of schools or the director of schools’ designee shall ensure that attendance teachers are informed of parents’ rights to conduct a home school pursuant to § 49-6-3001(c)(4), subsection (a) of this section, and § 49-50-801 upon employment of such persons and at the beginning of each school year;”
They have no right to claim they didn’t know what the law said. The Director of Schools and the Attendance Supervisor have a legal obligation to make sure they understand the law and know what parents’ rights are.