GOOCHLAND, Va. – A Virginia school board is doing away with a policy that required prospective home schooled students to justify their religious beliefs after a flurry of complaints from parents and the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The Goochland County Public Schools board of education last year approved a policy that “requires children ages 14 and up who want to be home schooled to provide a statement about their religious beliefs to the school system,” CBS reports.
The policy also gave the school board the authority to demand a hearing with the student or their parents to further gauge the authenticity of their beliefs.
Yet despite assurances from the district’s legal counsel that the policy is “legally sound,” the board voted at its meeting Tuesday night to repeal the policy after hundreds of parents showed up to complain.
“There will be one more vote at the board’s next meeting, however, parents tell CBS 6 that the board informed them that they promise to vote the same way,” according to the news site.
“As for parents who received a letter asking for their kids to provide a statement, that is currently suspended until the final vote take place.”
That’s certainly good news to parents like Kevin and Katrina Hoeft, who opted their children out of the local school system for religious reasons.
“We believe the public schools have really departed from teaching kids about the role of God in life,” Kevin Hoeft told CBS.
“For a 14-year-old to be threatened to have to come before the school board to explain or justify his or her religious beliefs?”
The packed school board meeting this week was due in part to efforts by the Home School Legal Defense Association to send a message to school officials that home school parents believe the policy is unfair.
HSDLA also contends it is illegal.
“Most 14-year-olds haven’t yet developed an adult-level faith. They are still receiving religious training from their parents,” according to an HSDLA alert to its members. “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 Goochland policy violates this right.”
Many parents who commented online clearly agree.
“Wow, it’s like a ‘star chamber’ – a panel that decides whether or not you have written a good enough appeal to continue home schooling based on your religious beliefs,” Janet Peterson posted to EAGnews.org. “What if you didn’t have any religious beliefs, you simply didn’t want your children exposed to nonstop brainwashing, crap teaching methods and being treated like prison inmates. This is really all about the money.”
“Who are they that they think they can have authority of children over the children’s very own parents when it comes to ideas and worldviews?” Jason Salamone questioned.
“These people are lunatics!” Alayna Woods wrote. “They have NO rights to our children. Zero! None!”