As more parents grow concerned with what their children are exposed to in school, many are turning to home school as a viable alternative.
Despite Alabama's relatively lax law regarding home schooling, some parents who have taken their child out of public school to be home-schooled have reported receiving concerning messages from school staff or school board members, some even threatening to refer parents to legal authorities.
According to Kelli Sharitt with Honor School cover school, a free cover school for home-school parents, her organization has been inundated with examples of school employees overstepping bounds.
“It is widespread as far as parents going to the public schools wanting to withdraw their children or asking about home-school information, and they get all sorts of crazy information from the school employees,” Sharitt told 1819 News. “Whether it be employees telling them, ‘oh, you can’t home-school without proper approval.’ We’ve even heard them say, ‘oh, our superintendent has to approve that.’”
Although neither Alabama law nor Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) guidelines require families to school their children under a cover, Sharitt says many schools have implied as much to many parents.
“Of course, the cover school is always an issue,” Sharitt continued. “They might say, ‘You have to tell us what cover school you plan to use. Some of them will go even further and say, ‘After you leave us, you’re going to have to send us your home-school attendance.’ They’ll ask what curriculum you plan to use. They’ll ask the parents, ‘what are your credentials? Do you even have a high school diploma?’
“We also have some districts that have created their own paperwork, And they give the parent a piece of paper that says you are required to do X, Y, and Z, and you have to sign this. Well, X, Y, and Z, as we know, is not a requirement; it’s just a piece of paper that somebody at the school typed up. And the parents – I’m not going to say forced – but if they don’t know better or they feel backed in a corner, they have to sign this form in order to feel like they can home-school their child."
While the requests filed by these various school systems are not lawful, that doesn’t stop threats to turn parents over to the courts for refusing to cooperate with the school’s orders.
One example provided by Sharitt shows an elementary school family liaison threatening to turn a parent into the Coffee County District Attorney's office for failing to comply with a series of demands.
"We've even had people told, 'We are going to turn you in for truancy if you don't tell us what cover school you use.' Truancy is a common word that gets thrown around," Sharitt explained.
Depending on the locality, truancy can be treated mildly or harshly. Parents could face misdemeanor charges for violating Alabama's compulsory education laws. Penalties for breaking the law range from fines to jail time.
Currently, there have been no legal ramifications for schools making these requests or issuing threats. According to Sharitt, most parents capitulate out of fear before discovering the reality of Alabama's home-schooling laws.
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