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County Watch

Winter 2006

Wayne County – At the beginning of December, a number of families received a memorandum from the attendance director, Carl Steele, which stated that his office had not yet received their children's plans of instruction for the current school year. In the memo, Mr. Steele threatened “to take action” if the families did not submit the plans by January 3, 2006.

Some homeschool parents talked with Wayne County school board members about the memo. The families explained that they had sent in their plans with their notices of intent before the current school year had begun. The board members told them that some homeschool families “weren't doing their job.” The parents then asked why the county was harassing them since their children’s annual assessments clearly showed that they had demonstrated academic progress. 

About two weeks later, families who had received the memo received a letter from the attendance director apologizing for the erroneous requests for information.

Spring 2006

Wayne County – When her child became eligible to drive, a parent took the appropriate DMV form to the county attendance director for his signature. The attendance director refused to sign, saying that the family was not in compliance. He insisted that the parent account for days and length of time spent on each subject to meet the plan of instruction requirement. Initially, the parent refused, insisting that she had submitted a plan of instruction at the beginning of the year with her notice of intent. But getting her child’s driver’s license was so important, the parent eventually filled out the forms, and the attendance director signed the DMV form.

The parent then consulted with a local attorney, talked with WVHEA representatives and called the WVDE’s non-public education administrator, Karen Larry. Earlier, Ms. Larry had offered to attend a meeting with county school officials and homeschool families to try to help resolve outstanding issues with the attendance director. WVHEA contacted a number of families in the county who had expressed interest in attending such a meeting.

Then the parent received a call from Katie Carey, the county’s assistant superintendent of schools, who apologized profusely and said that she had spoken with the attendance director about his errors in handling this case. Ms. Carey said there was no need for a meeting with Ms. Larry.

The parent replied that other homeschool families in the county were still having difficulty with the attendance director, particularly those new to the county. Ms. Carey then offered to serve as the contact for any homeschool family with questions or problems. Ms. Carey can be reached at 272-5116 ext. 350.

Fall 2005

Wayne County — Two home-school families in Wayne County notified WVHEA that the county attendance director’s office requested that they fill out progress reports every nine weeks "to let them know how many minutes a day we are doing each subject." Once they filled out the forms, the office said, they would receive the textbooks they had requested. The parent of one family refused, saying that such reports are not required, and was given the textbooks.

When Carl Steele, the county’s attendance director, spoke to the other family about completing progress reports before they could receive the textbooks, the parent replied that she had already complied with the law, which did not require forms, and had provided all the required information.

WVHEA asked the WVDE's Karen Larry to help resolve the matter. She called Mr. Steele and clarified some areas of the law for him. She also assured him that he was acting within the law to require families to provide an outline of a plan of instruction.

WVHEA sent Ms. Larry a copy of the family’s notice of intent, which included an outline of the plan of instruction. The outline explained the family’s method of homeschooling, giving an example of how they follow their children’s interests while helping them learn the subjects mentioned in the law.

Mr. Steele threatened the family with legal action if they continued to  disobey the compulsory attendance law. The parent spoke with Karen Larry, who told her that her outline of a plan of instruction need not be “voluminous”, but the county was within its rights to require more of an outline than had been provided. Ms. Larry referred to a 1991 state superintendent’s interpretation, which reads, in part:

If the plan of instruction is deemed inadequate and is not able to be amended and agreed upon by the parents and the county, then [the compulsory attendance exemption] could be denied by my office or the county superintendent could seek the remedies available in circuit court.

In an email to WVHEA, Ms. Larry wrote: “If the county wants more than just the names of the subjects, the county should definitely make its expectations very clear up front and offer assistance to the home school provider.”

The parent phoned Mr. Steele to find out his requirements for an outline of a plan of instruction, but had not yet heard from him by the time we went to press.

– Betsy Kocsis  

Fall 2004

Wayne County – After sending their notices of intent to homeschool to the county superintendent’s office, several parents reported receiving a letter from the county with a request to return the completed notice of intent forms. The forms contained a reference to “WV State Education Law H.B. 2781, under Exemption B of the West Virginia Code.” (Ed: H.B. 2781 was the bill number for the 1987 legislation that instituted WV’s “homeschooling law.”) 

When one parent called the county homeschool liaison’s office about the letter, she was told that each child needs to have a form for the office’s record-keeping system. The incorrect legal reference was not addressed. Some parents responded with a letter stating that they had already complied with the law and would not be returning a completed form.

A new homeschooling family reported receiving another kind of packet after submitting a notice of intent to homeschool. The packet included forms requesting “daily, weekly, and 9-week lesson plans.” In a phone conversation with the county homeschool liaison’s secretary, the parent explained that she was using the notice of intent homeschool option, not the approval option. The parent did not return the paperwork, nor did she hear any more from the county. 

Summer 2003

Wayne County The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reported that the Wayne County school board was considering a requirement that homeschoolers submit progress reports periodically during the year (“Progress reports proposed for home-schooled children“, 7/2/03). The article also suggested that board members believed that the county board must approve homeschoolers’ remediation programs. 119 of the 188 homeschoolers in Wayne County had failed to comply with the law, according to the article.

WVHEA wrote a letter to the Herald-Dispatch, noting the different requirements for those who homeschool under the approval option and those who file a notice of intent. Our letter also pointed out that the law did not specify that county school boards must approve remediation programs.

A Wayne County homeschooler spoke with Wayne’s Homeschool Coordinator, Carl Steele, twice about this matter. During the first conversation Mr. Steele said that progress reports would indeed be required. However, the second conversation apparently occurred after Mr. Steele had talked with Karen Larry, of the WV Department of Education. He said that the conversation had answered many of his questions, and the county would not be requiring progress reports for homeschooled children. -- Thanks to Nancy Imhoff (Huntington) for reporting about this situation.