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The following are the personal notes of:

Chris Hamilton
84 Mason Road
Brookline, NH 03033-2204
(603) 673-0189
beaverlodge at empire.net

The meeting start was delayed because Elaine Rapp and Michael Faiella were attending the first hearing of the committee created to study access to public schools by homeschoolers, which meant a quorum was not available.

In conversation preceding the start of the meeting, Angie LeBel stated that over 40 homeschoolers were reporting to the Commissioner of Education so far this year.

HEAC Meeting
September 15, 1998
3:45-5:00 PM

Present: Angie LeBel, Rachel Hopkins, George D'Orazio, Mike Benik, Bob Horan, Robert Drye, Elaine Rapp and Karen Tardiff, later joined by Michael Faiella. Also visitor Chris Hamilton.

1. Minutes of previous meetings:

    The minutes of the June 1998 meeting were accepted without comment.

2. DOE Report

    Rachel announced that the board meeting of the NH School Boards Association is also on the third Tuesday of the month, and that if HEAC continues to meet on that day, Paul Krohne will not be able to attend. It was decided to hold future meetings on the second Tuesday of each month.

    Rachel had received two phone calls from superintendents not wanting to approve home education programs. One did not like the program the parents had selected, and the other thought the parents incapable of carrying out the program specified. She had told them that their reasons for doing so were not valid, and they could not withhold approval.

    DOE had received a letter from Homeschooling Friends of Dover, asking that the group be added to the list of home education organizations which DOE mails out upon request. Elaine suggested that any group which wants to be listed be allowed to do so, and there was general agreement.

    Over the summer Judith Fillion and Gerry Bourgeois of DOE had worked on clarifying some home education problem issues. In August, Rachel had sent an advisory letter (see attached) to all superintendents. She especially wanted it noted that superintendents will now send to the DOE only the number of homeschooled students in their districts, and the list of personal information will only be kept at the local level. This is easier for both the districts and DOE, and addresses privacy concerns expressed by the homeschooling community.

    The NH Bar Association will be hosting a law conference for parents and teachers. Rachel will post a notice of it on the nhhr-l mailing list. She also had a brochure from the Currier Art Gallery, which she would treat the same way.

    Rachel will be travelling to Pittsburg, NH, next Thursday for a meeting with school officials. A father, who is a state employee and (she believes) a caretaker on an Indian reservation, has children who were invited by the coach and principal of the local school to participate on the sports team. The school is very small, and has difficulty fielding teams. The school board has said the students may not play, because the district pays tuition for students attending that high school. Participation by homeschooled students is under the jursidiction of the NHAIA, which has ruled that participation is up to the principal of the school. Rachel invited any HEAC members who were interested to travel with her. Elaine asked if the school board's decision could be appealed to the State Board of Education. Rachel's answer was that a policy could be appealed, but the school does not yet have a policy.

    The Hillsboro district had withdrawn a notice of hearing they sent to DOE in July, but had sent another one, which DOE received that day. Rachel and Angie had not had time to follow up on it. It was believed that the issue was that the evaluation was not accepted by the district. There is the potential for a grievance hearing.

    There are 3 or 4 other families on probation this year. Rachel hasn't checked yet to see if they were on probation last year with other participating agencies. There are several "sticky situations" that Rachel and Gerry Bourgeois are keeping track of, but which she didn't wish to bring to HEAC's attention just yet.

    Rachel received a call from a principal in Stratham. A homeschooled student had been studying with a professor in Durham, and wanted to receive high school credit for the work and be placed in 10th grade. The principal wanted to know if he was required to do this. Rachel's response was that whatever policies were in place for evaluating and placing transfer students must be applied to homeschooled students. In response to this kind of question, she often uses the example of placing a foreign student from a country with a dissimilar educational system, such as China. She also mailed him a copy of a letter dated 6/11/97 (see attached letter), which was sent out to all districts, stating that students can use outside study for advanced placement in courses, but must still complete the required number of credits for graduation. She suggests that students be allowed to take the final exam that would be offered in the course they wish to skip. Elaine stated that sometimes superintendents want to know if a certain action is permitted, rather than if it is required.

    A compilation of documents will be going out to superintendents on residency requirements (see attached). It doesn't directly relate to homeschooling, but may have some implications for some homeschoolers.

    Rachel had received a brochure from NHPTV Interactive Television about use of their studios by outside parties. The operation is funded by state and national funds, and is run by the College of Lifelong Learning, They charge $60/hr for the use of their facilities. Rachel thought it might be useful in offering distance learning courses for homeschoolers. She would post the info to the nhhr-l mailing list.

    As chair of HEAC, Elaine had received letters from individuals who wished to offer their services to homeschoolers. She wanted to know if it was alright to forward them to NH Homeschooling Coalition. Chris Hamilton (visitor) suggested that they be forwarded to all the homeschool organizations, as they had non-overlapping memberships. This was modifed to have Rachel create a form letter with the list of organizations attached, which would be used to respond to all such letters. The letter would state that the DOE cannot appear to endorse any program, product or individual, and would suggest they contact the organizations directly.

    The school approval section (including Home Education) will be the first part of the DOE redesigned Web site to be functional. This will be coming online October 13th through November 1st.

3. Home education - "Dropout"

    Angie had gotten calls from parents concerned that students over 16 who begin homeschooling are being considered "dropouts". An example was given of a student who, at 15, had herself declared an emancipated minor, got a job, bought a correspondence course from another state, and graduated from their high school in one year. This is one person that ended up in the category of "dropout".

    Further discussion was deferred until Michael Faiella arrived, as he had some important information to share on this topic.

4. Mike Benik Nomination Letter

    DOE had received a letter from Christian Home Educators of NH nominating Mike Benik for another term on HEAC.

5. Franklin Pierce Law Institute Update - Elaine Rapp

    The conference was wonderful. Elaine appreciated the department having sent her. She wanted to write a report on the sessions she attended, and especially wanted to get information on new things in the federal law on special education out to HEAC members.

    There was supposed to have been a session on homeschooling and sports, but it was cancelled. She did participate in sessions on liability, special education and religious rights (lots of discussion of homeschooling in that one). There was a civil rights lawyer from Texas who raised the issue of school violence being a valid objection to compulsory attendance laws. She also attended a session where Sue McLaughlin of the NH School Boards Association was a panelist, during which concern among teachers over the Claremont decision was being expressed. Elaine was glad to hear that there was not universal public consensus on the solution yet, that people were at least thinking about the deeper implications. She was somewhat disappointed that the conference was geared to the "education agenda".

    On a related note, she had approached Gerry Bourgeois of DOE with some questions on the Norwalt case. She asked why not use compulsory attendance as a line of pursuit in the prosecution? She was told all questions on the Norwalt case must be directed to the Commissioner of Education or the Attorney General.

3. Home education - "Dropout", continued

    As Michael Faiella was now at the meeting, discussion returned to this item.

    Mike had received a letter from a lady in Alton who had homeschooled her daughter for several years, and enjoyed an excellent relationship with her district. Although her daughter was already 16, she sent in a letter of notification. In response, she got a letter stating that she no longer needed to notify, that her child was to be listed as a dropout, and that should she want to enter public high school, she would need to do so as a freshman. The mother did not want the label of dropout on her child's record. Mike had forwarded the letter to Rachel.

    Rob Drye asserted, and Rachel confirmed, that this was a local issue, not a state issue. As for becoming a freshman, Rachel restated that they must use the same policy they have in place for transfer students. Rachel also spoke of a contract the DOE had entered into with a company called Sierra, to create a dictionary of "database" terms, such as "gender", "rural" and "dropout".

    Bob Horan asked why the woman didn't speak directly to the superintendent? Mike will call the woman with that suggestion, and that if she didn't get satisfaction to pursue it with the local school board, as it was a local issue. Elaine hoped she would let HEAC know how things turned out, as too often they never hear the resolutions of the problems.

    At this point, Angie and Rachel began bringing up some additional problems they had been addressing with homeschoolers. I don't think it was under any particular heading of the published agenda.

    One district was telling parents they could borrow textbooks, after providing a $500 deposit to the district. This was a district with a low median income.

    A mother who had her child in daycare wanted to homeschool, while still continuing to receive Title 20 funds.

    A lady with roots in NH, living in a hotel in Maryland while waiting to join her husband in Pakistan, wanted to know if she could homeschool her children for this time period under the NH homeschooling law.

    A 15-yr-old migrant child will be in NH temporarily. The parents wanted to know if they could homeschool their child under NH laws while he was in this state.

    A military family with no permanent address, but owning land in NH, wanted to know if they could fall under NH jurisdiction for homeschooling their child.

    A NH carnival worker who would be travelling around the country wanted to know if he could homeschool his child under NH law.

    In all these cases, Rachel has told the parent to "just do it" -- submit a letter of notification to the commissioner and begin homeschooling. They'll deal with the residency technicalities later. She didn't want the children to miss out on what she thinks is a great educational opportunity.

6. Legislative Update

    The committee created by HB 1247 to study access to public schools by homeschoolers had met for the first time earlier that day. In fact, that was why Elaine and Michael were late.

    The committee members from the House of Representatives are Susan Clay (sponsor), Elizabeth Hoadley, Marie Rabideau (chair) and Roland Lefebvre. The committee members from the Senate are Gary Francoeur, John King and David Wheeler.

    Michael reported that the committee seems to be trying to figure out what they should be doing. They had invited many people to their first hearing, but only Elaine Rapp, Michael Faiella and Pat Busselle (DOE legislative administrator) had attended. One issue raised was whether dual enrollment violated 28:A, unfunded mandates. The committee seemed to want to find out and establish legislative intent, and seemed to be leaning toward producing a statement clarifying the 1994 amendment to the dual enrollment law. They will meet again on 9/29/98, probably in the morning. Michael had provided them with the overview of the statewide survey HEAC and DOE conducted in 1995 on district policies regarding access by homeschoolers. Elaine suggested he also provide them with the specific wording of any policies sent to him.

The meeting adjourned around 5:00

Document source: E-Mail from Chris Hamilton

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