A government official has shouldered the blame for a brief scare among the homeschool community.
Rod Helder, director of the Division of Non-Public Education, allowed his office to send out a letter to homeschooling parents telling them to report to a police station, with their children, for a “review” of their work.
“I have to take the blame for what happened here,” Helder said. “We have to hold these reviews at places where we can meet at no charge. Usually it’s a library, a church, or a local government office.”
The choice, this year, of a police substation in a strip mall, he admitted, was a public relations disaster.
“I understand people’s feelings,” he said. “I can see the headlines now — ‘Homeschool Moms Summoned to Police HQ.’ I should’ve foreseen what would happen, and I apologize for it.”
As Helder made ready to go on vacation, angry and confused phone calls flooded his office. He ordered the original letter discontinued, changed the meeting place to a library, and sent out new letters.
North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE) acted quickly in response to the original letter, advising homeschool families not to go to the meetings. In addition to the choice of the police station, NCHE objected to the letter’s request that parents bring their children to the meetings, something not required by statute.
For the time being, at least, NCHE has withdrawn its objections to the meetings.
“The Director of DNPE has heard and responded to the concerns of homeschoolers,” says the NCHE’s most recent email on the subject. “He has agreed that having these VOLUNTARY meetings at a police station is not a good idea and that … no future meetings will be planned at police stations. He also agrees that since these meetings are voluntary, the presence of students is entirely OPTIONAL … Remember, your participation in these meetings is a voluntary decision that each family will need to make for themselves.”
Earlier NCHE emails took a different tone.
“While homeschoolers have enjoyed a peaceful regulatory environment under Mr. Helder’s administration,” says one email to members, “these meetings exceed the legal requirements on several points, and NCHE strongly recommends against participating.
“As the DNPE letter acknowledges, these meetings are not required by law, and you cannot be penalized for choosing not to attend.”
The record review meetings are voluntary, Helder said; the division has been holding them for 20 years, “and nobody’s ever complained before.”
The purpose of the meetings, procedures, and other details are fully described in the FAQ section of the division’s website (http://www.ncdnpe.org/hhh114xx.htm). Participants are selected at random, Helder said. If they decline, the division has the statutory authority to visit them at home. Homeschooling parents must provide their children’s scores on standardized achievement tests (parents select which tests to use); and attendance records, lesson plans, textbook lists, and logbooks may be voluntarily displayed.
The Real Story
The flap over the record review meetings draws attention to much more important issues.
“When we started this review program some 20 years ago,” Helder said, “we had about 350 homeschooling families in North Carolina. Today we have almost 35,000. This old method is no longer adequate.”
There is no way the division can review all 35,000 families, he said. Households in their first year of homeschooling, therefore, are exempt from review.
While the number of homeschooling families increased a hundredfold, the division’s staff grew from four full-time employees to … five.
“It’s all we can do just to answer people’s phone calls,” Helder said. “So many people have so many questions about what the state laws require them to do — just routine questions, but we can’t keep up. We do try to provide all the relevant information on our website.”
In addition to being responsible for supervising home education, the division staff must also visit every private school in the state at least once a year.
“Ours is one of the few states where homeschoolers do not answer to the public schools or any other school establishment,” Helder said. “This division is operated by the governor’s office, not the State Board of Education.”
But the state should not be supervising home education at all. The Bible teaches clearly that the schooling of children is the responsibility of their parents, not the state. Furthermore, any involvement of the state in education is extra-constitutional. Neither “education” nor “schooling” are mentioned even once in the U.S. Constitution.
The problem is that the American people, over the span of 150 years, have grown accustomed to the government taking charge of education. The great majority no longer question it — although the dramatic growth of the homeschooling movement shows that more and more citizens are questioning it, and voting with their feet.
As long as the government has any involvement in homeschooling, which is an abuse in itself, there is the potential for greater abuse, on a grand scale.
In Germany, for instance, the government has decided to enforce a Nazi-era law banning homeschooling altogether. The European Human Rights Court has upheld this law (see http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/oct/06101303.html), and several German fathers have been jailed.
American homeschooling families are aware of this. Is it any wonder NCHE reacted so strongly when parents were “invited” to report to a police station with their children?
It’s good that North Carolina does not require its homeschooling families to answer to the public school establishment; but it’s not quite good enough.
Originally the strength of American civilization was not the state, but the family. Statist “educators” have spent more than a century trying to undo this. As R. J. Rushdoony writes, “The concept of ‘democratic’ or statist education has waged war, not only against the Christian faith, but against the family as well … The ‘public’ or statist schools, which began their history as a subversive movement aimed at subverting the old order, now cast the implication of subversion on the family!”
We commend NCHE for its vigilance, and Mr. Helder for his willingness to admit his division made a mistake. But the original “mistake” is to have the government involved in education in the first place.
We look forward to the day when homeschooling comprises enough votes to cast off unconstitutional government “supervision” altogether.
 R. J. Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1965, 2001 edition), 26–27.
- Lee Duigon
Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.
Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.