If you choose to homeschool your children in Campbell County, Virginia, you have to show evidence to the local school district that “the program provides a basic education as defined by law.” One way to do that is through standardized testing.
Jeff and Stephanie Dent believe those tests go against their religious faith — they’re Universalists — and they don’t want their children to have to take them:
“Being subjected to the test itself makes them feel like they are being scrutinized. For them, spiritually, right now, it doesn’t feel right” said Stephanie Dent.
The Assistant Superintendent asked the Dents for notarized statements from their minister and other non-relative adults who can testify to the validity of their religious beliefs. That’s not the law, just the procedure the county has established.
However, the Dents don’t have a pastor. They no longer attend the local Universalist church.
Stephanie Dent says the Assistant Superintendent told her that, without those letters, he will recommend the board deny their request.
You may be wondering: What does Universalism have to do with standardized testing? I have no idea. And the Dents don’t really explain their reasoning, either. But, you know, it’s their religion and it has to be respected.
Legally speaking, though, they may have a case here. If they can be exempted with a signed note from their pastor, it seems like they should be able to get the exemption even if they don’t attend a church.
That said, it worries me that what they’re asking for is for the district to pay no attention to them whatsoever. Even if the Dents homeschool their children properly, it’s a system that would allow abusers to slip through the cracks.
The district could theoretically solve that problem by granting the Dents their exemption but finding another way to verify that their children really are learning what they need to be learning. They haven’t announced yet if they’ll go that route.
I asked the Home School Legal Defense Association for comment on this story last night, but I haven’t heard back as of this writing.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Image via Shutterstock)