School district officials in a generally rural central Virginia county have decided not to try to force homeschooling parents and children to justify their religious beliefs to the satisfaction of the government.
The taxpayer-funded school board for the Goochland County Public Schools voted on Tuesday night to reverse course — at least partially — on a policy that had required children ages 14 and older to furnish local school bureaucrats with a statement concerning their religious beliefs.
The repeal came after hundreds of angry parents showed up at a school board meeting to show and voice their concerns, area CBS affiliate WTVR reports.
That’s the good news for homeschooling advocates. The bad news is that the school board will continue to reserve the right to require parents who homeschool their own children to submit to a hearing. At the hearing, government bureaucrats will judge whether children and parents are sufficiently serious about their religious beliefs.
Local parents — and voters — upbraided the school board members on Tuesday.
“To demand a child at 14 to attest to their religious beliefs, while they are still in training and have not come to firm religious beliefs, is unfair to the child and certainly usurps the parents authority,” said one irate parent, according to WDBJ, another area CBS affiliate.
The school board had defended the policy before Tuesday night’s school board meeting. An attorney for the school board swore to school board chairman Michael Payne that the policy “legally sound,” notes WTVR.
Payne complained that existing Virginia law on homeschooling is not clear enough as well.
The Home School Legal Defense Association has called the Goochland policy illegal.
“The Virginia religious exemption statute gives families a right to an exemption from school attendance based on the religious training the parents are providing the child — regardless of what the child believes,” the HSLDA argued in a missive to its membership, according to EAGnews.org.
“The Goochland policy violates this right.”
The school board will vote once again on the same policy at its next meeting for some reason. Members have informed parents that they again plan to vote against requiring a statement of faith (but in favor of the option of a faith hearing).