10/1/2007 - October 2007 Educational Update - An Update on Home Schooling in Alabama
AN EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM
THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE, INC.TM
To: SLI Supporters
Date: October 2007
From: A. Eric Johnston
Re: An Update on Home Schooling in Alabama
This Educational Update is a summary of the legal standing of home schooling in Alabama. It is not a comprehensive compendium of information. It is to give the reader enough knowledge to understand home schooling in Alabama so that if the need exists, the reader can inquire further. For a more complete treatment of the subject, we refer you to our website www.southeastlawinstitute.org and follow the link to Newsletter and then click on 1/6/2006 - Home Schooling in Alabama.
A home school is technically one in which the parent educates the child in the home. A home school may have other elements which would include participation in group activities, classes, field trips, etcetera. There is no legal definition of home school and there are no specific legal provisions for home schooling in Alabama. Home schools are recognized by law, e.g., Alabama Administrative Code Rule Number 290-030-010 recognizes transfers from non public, non accredited schools to public schools and Section 16-22A-3(15) excludes home schooling parents from criminal background checks. A number of legislative bills authorizing Alabama home schooling were introduced during the 1980's, but none were successful.
Home schooling continues to be a growing trend. There are no accurate numbers of families which are home schooling, but they are clearly believed to be in the thousands in Alabama. Parents choose between public education or nonpublic education, which would include church, parochial, private, boarding or home schools. The usual home school situation falls under a church program. However, there are some stand-alone home school organizations which provide support and assistance for home school families. There are fewer families who simply home school on an individual basis.
The home school is usually set up in the home and can operate through a satellite church program. Section 16-28-1, 1975 Code of Alabama, provides a definition for church schools. These are schools that are operated by a church, group of churches or denomination. Because of First Amendment concerns, the statutes do not regulate the school. That is left up to the church. That is, the church administers the program which often includes on campus activities. Church schools in Alabama have proven to be very strong and productive schools. Because there is no exact definition of a church school, it is able to operate a satellite home school program, as well as a normal on campus program.
A home school may be conducted under Section 16-28-5, id., the "private tutor" law. A certified teacher provides home schooling to the student. The method is not usually available to parents because of the teacher certification requirement; either a certified teacher must be hired or the parent is certified. Another method of home school is a separate nonprofit organization. There is no statute providing for this, but by the same token, there is no statute prohibiting it. It is possible such an organization would qualify as a church and therefore fit under the church method referenced above. However, most of these organizations are home school associations of parents who organize to support each other and provide the mechanism for a home school.
There is little case law on home schooling in Alabama. The cases of Hill v. State, 381 So.2d 91 (Ala. Crim. App. 1979) and Jernigan v. State, 412 So.2d 1242 (Ala. Crim. App. 1982) dealt with home schooling, but not adequately. There have been later cases that dealt peripherally with home schooling, based on children being truant. The most common problems for home schoolers are the truancy laws. Some local authorities do not recognize the validity of the home school and charge that a child is in need of supervision pursuant to Section 12-15-13, id. This can result in a loss of custody of one's child, so it is advisable parents be careful and conduct their home school in the best possible way. How is that done?
The home school should be a good record keeper. Attendance reports and grade transcripts should be meticulously kept. Periodic standardized testing should be done. Regular school hours should be kept. There should be joint social activities with other home schooling children. If these things are done, it demonstrates the home school is being operated as a school and the children are being educated. After all, the purpose of truancy laws is to be sure children are in some kind of school. It is not for the state to decide which parental choice is appropriate. It is necessary, however, that the education actually exists.
It must be clearly stated that while there is no law prohibiting home schooling in Alabama, some authorities feel that it is improper. These issues should be dealt with on a local case by case basis. Parents should always be cooperative with local officials. At the first sign of trouble, expert assistance should be sought. SLI is glad to provide that assistance at no charge to parents, or to public or non public school authorities. Our goal is to work closely with the authorities at both the local and state levels to be sure parents' rights are respected, while at the same time children are getting adequate educations. We are grateful for the cooperation and understanding of education authorities from the highest levels to the local. Multiple choice in educational methods provides for a diverse and very strong educational culture in the state.
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