The Home School Legal Defense Association is the premiere advocate for homeschoolers worldwide, lobbying for their rights and representing them in court in the United States and globally.
Now, it is sending a message to authorities in New Mexico “in protest of unlawful demands” by encouraging homeschooling families in the state “to disregard official instructions for filing the annual notice of intent.”
HSLDA staff lawyer Tj Schmidt says in a report on the group’s website the request was “not something we did lightly.”
It came after months of trying to persuade state Public Education Department officials to remove an “onerous and unlawful ‘statement of understanding'” in the department’s requirements for homeschooling.
An online report by HSLDA’s Dave Dentel said the 11-point statement “misconstrues some aspects of New Mexico homeschool law” and implies families risk “losing approval” to homeschool if they do not submit to state demands.
For example, the statement dictates how much time parents must spend teaching every day on schooling. HSLDA said the rules clearly apply to more traditional classroom settings and “are simply not practical or appropriate for homeschooling.”
Then there’s a rule HSLDA says is “legally questionable”: If state officials find a homeschool is not in compliance with their demands, the student may be “forced” to enroll in a state school.
In partnership with Christian Association of Parent Educators-New Mexico, CAPE-NM, Schmidt sent an email to homeschoolers in the state advising them to mail printed copies of the notice form without the statement of understanding, HSLDA said.
“We felt like this would be the least confrontational way to get the point across to the PED,” explained Cathy Heckendorn of CAPE-NM, in the online report.
And, so far, “families are on board.”
She said a major concern is that the state’s requirement will encourage officials to impose even more demands.
“When we consent to sign this document we’re saying this part of law applies to us,” even though it does not, Heckendorn said.
Schmidt acknowledged in the report rejecting the statement could have consequences, but he said the HSLDA is prepared to fight back.
“Camels’ noses and education bureaucrats are a lot alike,” said Jim Mason, HSLDA vice president of litigation and development. “Sometimes they both need to be reminded to stay out of our tents.”
HSLDA emphasized its campaign in New Mexico is just a recommendation, and families must decide for themselves how to respond.