The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is advising parent educators in the state of New Mexico to ignore a requirement “in protest of unlawful demands” made by state authorities.
HSLDA attorneys are encouraging homeschool families statewide to not comply with school officials’ insistence that parents teach their children for a minimum number of hours per day in their notice of intent.
“[D]isregard official instructions for filing the annual notice of intent,” HSLDA’s legal team advised its organization’s members, according to WND.
Gone too far …
But it is out of the ordinary that the Christian legal group advises its member families not to comply with state education authorities.
“[Our request was] not something we did lightly,” HSLDA staff attorney Tj Schmidt stressed, according to WND.
HSLDA’s challenge to the system came after state officials allegedly stepped outside their authority.
“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,” WND reported.
HSLDA’s Dave Dentel made several arguments as to why the state’s requests are out of line.
“[The state’s 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,” Dentel explained in a statement.
Numerous unwarranted demands are put on homeschool parents through the law, such as how many hours parents must spend teaching their students per day and per year in various grade levels.
“For students in kindergarten: 5.5 hours per day for 180 days OR 450 hours per year,” the New Mexico homeschool law states. “For students in grades 1–6, 5.5 hours per day for 180 days OR 990 hours per year. For students in grades 7–12, 6 hours per day for 180) days OR 1,080 hours per year.”
With the sharp contrast between the styles of education administered by conventional schools and homeschools, HSLDA argues that the hour requirements are nothing short of ridiculous.
“These rules clearly apply to more traditional classroom settings, [and] are simply not practical or appropriate for homeschooling,” HSLDA attorneys contended, according to WND.
Nabbing another power grab …
Another rule is also considered “legally questionable” by the Christian nonprofit’s legal team.
“I understand that it is the responsibility of the department to enforce requirements for home schools and that upon finding that a home school is not in compliance with law, the department may order that a student attend a public school or a private school,” reads New Mexico’s problematic statement to home educators informing about the law.
In HSLDA’s five guidelines of compliance with New Mexico state law’s requirement for homeschoolers that it makes accessible to parents online, the amount of instructional hours is nowhere to be found – just the number of days.
“[New Mexico home educators must be]: 1. Be qualified to teach; 2. Notify the state superintendent of your intent to homeschool; 3. Teach for the required number of days; 4. Teach the required subjects and; 5. Maintain immunization records,” HSLDA informs on its website for New Mexico homeschoolers.
Schmidt – in partnership with the Christian Association of Parent Educators-New Mexico (CAPE-NM) – emailed homeschoolers throughout the state urging them to print out copies of the state’s notice form … minus its statement of understanding.
“We felt like this would be the least confrontational way to get the point across to the PED,” CAPE-NM’s Cathy Heckendorn informed, noting that so far, “families are on board,” according to WND.
Not giving in …
The Christian education leader is worried that if homeschoolers fill out the forms and comply with the enforcement of the current state requirements, education officials will be more and more inclined to impose additional demands in the future.
“When we consent to sign this document, we’re saying this part of law applies to us [even though it does not], Heckendorn argued, WND reported.
Even though Schmidt admitted that parents could suffer some consequences for not submitting the full documentation, HSLDA’s team is more than ready to wage a legal challenge against the state in defense of home educators’ noncompliance.
HSLDA Vice President of Litigation and Development Jim Mason says that state officials need to be sent a message – loud and clear – that they cannot overstep their authority.
“Camels’ noses and education bureaucrats are a lot alike,” Mason pointed out. “Sometimes they both need to be reminded to stay out of our tents.”
Attorneys with HSLDA stressed that they are not requiring – only recommending – families to ignore the requirement,and leaving it up to them to make the final decision.