School Claims Right to Question Homeschooled Students

The school board wants to question homeschooled students about their religious beliefs.

school bus stop

In the United States parents have received a letter demanding that their fourteen-year-old submit their own written statement to the directors of a government entity to explain their religious beliefs. They were also warned that, if the bureaucrats were not satisfied, they could call them to appear to give a personal account and be questioned. This really happened in Virginia, though I don’t understand how. I know that secular or unbelieving parents can homeschool, so how can the religious beliefs of the child matter?

Here’s the story from a local CBS affiliate: “Outcry leads to change in Goochland policy about religion and home-schooled students.”

Hundreds of passionate parents came out to Tuesday night’s Goochland School Board meeting.

They were there because of a religious exemption policy put in place by the school board in 2013. The policy required children ages 14 and up, who wanted to be home schooled, to provide a statement about their religious beliefs to the school system.

The board reserved the right to bring the child and his or her parent in for a hearing.

However, after listening to many people’s concerns, the board voted to repeal the policy.

There will be one more vote at the board’s next meeting, however, parents said the board informed them that they promised to vote the same way.

As for parents who received a letter asking for their children to provide a statement, that is currently suspended until the final vote takes place.

The Home School Legal Defense Association said the policy violates Virginia law. State law allows children undergoing religious training to be taught at home without having to defend their beliefs.

The HSLDA said a bit more than that, according to the Daily Caller.

The Virginia religious exemption statute gives families a right to an exemption from school attendance based on the religious training the parents are providing the child — regardless of what the child believes.

So what was a right of parents has been re-interpreted by the school board as an authorization to separate a fourteen-year-old child from his parents for the purpose of probing his or her religious commitments in order to evaluate their sincerity.

[See also, “State Now Strips Drivers of License if They Skip School.”]

Note that this vote to (temporarily?) repeal the policy in no way implies an admission that the school board was legally out of bounds in demanding the statement from each child.

One can’t use strong enough language to describe the abomination that is taking place here. Educated people with authority who were raised in the United States think it is OK for a government entity to interrogate a child about his religious commitments. An earlier story reports that one school board member claims, “state law on the issue is very vague, and he would like the General Assembly to clarify the law for school districts.” Really? First, if it is vague, then what can possibly justify such a flagrant anti-American interpretation of the law? Second, if the Virginia state legislature actually intended this monstrosity, then they should be told to go to perdition. The school board should join with the homeschooling families to go to the courts to get the law struck down.

Again, as offensive as this religious intrusion is, it makes no sense. Parents have a natural right to educate their children just like they have a natural right to dress them and feed them. Secular parents have the same right as Christian parents or parents who are of any other religious belief.

So why is this even an issue?