Letter: Suzanne Smart, Leesburg

Editor: Homeschooling in Virginia is under attack.  It is under attack by certain members of our very own Loudoun County School Board.

Recently School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) put forward a motion within the Legislative and Policy Committee to effectively remove the right to religious exemption exercised by a minority of the homeschooling population in Loudoun County.

Why would Mr. Marshall be concerned about such a small group of homeschooling families? In his Sept. 29, email to the committee and copied to board members, Mr. Marshall states that the motion is in the name of “child safety.” He goes on to assert that “in order to fulfill our responsibility to protect children, we need to see the children or students prior to granting any exemption…”

Numerous concerns immediately come to mind regarding the proposed legislative changes in light of this stated rationale. Reading between the lines of that document, the reasoning is effectively based on the premise that the public school system should usurp the role of the parent(s). In other words, homeschooling parents should be forced to report regularly to “school personnel” in the name of “child safety” so that the “school personnel” can establish their position “on the front line” of families’ lives, and “fulfill [their] responsibility to protect children.”

Of course, the next logical step based on this rationale would be for the public school system to interfere with parent’s rights to homeschool their children in general, not just those who claim religious exemption. These “child safety” concerns are misdirected. It may be easily and persuasively argued that there are greater safety concerns within the public school system than there are within the homeschool community.

The argument has evolved since the proposal was originally conceived: proponents of the measure now say the change is necessary to fix a “loophole” that might fail to mandate that children in families claiming religious exemption receive an education. If this is truly the concern, I would be interested in seeing the hard evidence of such cases—religiously exempt families not satisfactorily home educating their children—occurring within Loudoun County.

The Dec. 4, committee meeting would be an appropriate time for the committee to present such evidence to the public. It seems that Loudoun County School Board is searching for a solution to a problem that simply does not exist. Regardless of whether the proposal is being rationalized in the name of “child safety” or compulsory education, the proposal put forth by School Board would result in an unjustifiable expansion of school board authority into the lives of homeschooling families throughout Virginia.

Suzanne Smart, Leesburg


4 thoughts on “Letter: Suzanne Smart, Leesburg

  • 2018-11-30 at 12:04 pm

    Why in the world does Mr. Marshall think “child safety” is a bigger concern in the homeschool population than the public school population? Are we to have inspections and interrogations for all public school students now, you know, to be sure they are “safe” in their homes? Ms. Smart suggests that “there are greater safety concerns within the public school system,” and she is correct. Isn’t that what we are told daily by the gun grabbers? Not to mention bullying, communicable illnesses, etc. If this is indeed a “child safety” issue for homeschoolers, that isn’t the purview of the SB – that’s CPS and local law enforcement. So either this is a wild overreach, or “child safety” is a BS explanation. I suspect the latter.

  • 2018-11-30 at 12:43 pm

    My daughter was a student in the public school. She was constantly bullied, while counselors sat by or played favorites. She was so distraught, I had to put her in therapy. I finally had enough when my concerns were met with indifference as some of the bullying was occurring on social media, and therefore, not the schools jurisdiction. Of course, this was being done by students of the Loudoun County School System.

    We had a bit of a tough go with the homeschooling initially, but then, she really took off and finished her schooling early. She is now going to be a college freshman before the age of 18.

    The fact the the LCSB is using concern for child safety as an excuse to modify a long standing exemption is not only ridiculous, but, a complete farce. If they are so concerned about child safety, they need to start with the safety, mental and physical well being of the students in their brick and mortar schools. Once that is tackled, come back and have a real discussion with home schooling parents. Until then, leave our religious beliefs and our rights alone.

  • 2018-11-30 at 2:26 pm

    I agree with Ms. Smart. Mr. Marshall’s original intent to alter religious exemption was to protect homeschool children from alleged abuse. For whatever reason, the verbiage was changed to education intent. Although we do not file under religious exemption, we could, and we would not be educating our children any differently. The targeting of homeschool families, assuming they want a loophole to withhold education or otherwise abuse their children, is absurd, unfounded, and with no evidence to support that a problem exists.

    I cannot imagine that the school board members honestly believe that requiring someone to either appear in person or complete a form will reliably reveal if a child is being educated or abused nor is it in the public school board’s jurisdiction. Would the school board recommend further means of “investigation” for a homeschool family, or any other Virginian citizen for any reason who has not committed a crime? The board’s lobbying on this issue appears more like an effort to profile and restrict the freedom of a peaceful group that does not fall in line with the opinions of many on the current board. I hope that this is not the case.

    It appears that it was the school board who was misinformed about a nonexistent problem. I appreciate the board members who realized this and changed their vote, and I hope the other board members will vote to rescind this agenda item.

  • 2018-11-30 at 5:11 pm

    The “child safety” concerns that Mr. Marshal should be concerned with are:

    1. LCPS football players gang raping fellow players (and I believe this was Mr. Marshall’s district)
    2. LCPS teacher arrested for taking nude photos of students.
    3. LCPS teacher arrested for sexual relations with students.
    4. LCPS teacher arrested for threatening students.

    And those are just the “child safety” concerns that have come to light in the past 3 months at the LCPS for which Mr. Marshall is a board member.

    Seems to me that Mr. Marshall’s concerns are misplaced. There is no problem with the 24 students in Loudoun County that learn under the religious exemption policy. There are HUGE child safety problems with LCPS itself for which Mr. Marshall is accountable and he is conveniently ignoring.

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