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Lt. Gov. Forest calls on parents to reject home school visits

Posted October 14, 2013

Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Newby, left, delivers the oath of office as Dan Forest is sworn in as N.C. lieutenant governor during a Jan. 7, 2013, ceremony in the Capitol.

— Lt. Gov. Dan Forest says the parents of students who are home-schooled should send government bureaucrats packing if they ask to visit. 

Forest made the comments in a news release sent to reporters late Monday. He was reacting to a decision by the state's Division of Non-Public Education to select five home-schools at random for site visits this year. That announcement garnered attention from advocates in the home school community.

Some of those same advocates said Monday they had been told the school visits would not take place. They quoted an email from David Mills, director of the division, as saying, "It has come to my attention that the effort to make a small sampling of homeschool visits is not well understood by homeschoolers. Today, as of October 14, 2013, I do not plan to do any more after the initial five I have already contacted."

The division confirmed that post just before 6 p.m. Monday, issuing what it characterized as a "joint release" with the lieutenant governor's office.

"The Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) and the Lt. Governor’s Office have conferred with regard to  site visits of North Carolina home schools, and agree that it is the joint mission of DNPE and the Lt. Governor’s office to support NC’s home school families," read the release issued by Department of Administration spokesman Chris Mears. "As DNPE communicated to North Carolinians for Home Education, no site visits have been conducted and none are planned. DNPE’s review of home schools includes requesting home schools to voluntarily submit records via email or attend a meeting, typically held in a location such as a church basement, for records reviews. At that time, DNPE asks for review of test results, immunization records, and attendance records showing that schools have operated for nine months. DNPE is mandated to annually inspect records according to State law."   

It's unclear why Forest issued his release if he and the division were in agreement so late in the day. However, at 4:26 p.m., Forest blasted the site-visit policy.

"This policy is intrusive, unnecessary, and has the potential to infringe on the constitutionally-protected privacy rights of tens of thousands of North Carolina home school families," Forest said.

As part of his release, Forest emphasized that families had the right to refuse "warrantless entry by government officials without probable cause into their homes." He also pledged to to get the legislature to pass a law forbidding such visits.

"Home School families should follow the law relating to the keeping of records and their lawful inspection, but should not be compelled to let any government official into their house. It is not necessary and people should reject it," Forest said.

The division that oversees home-schools is a part of the Department of Administration, overseen by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican like Forest. It is not a part of the Department of Public Instruction, which oversees public schools and is run by State Superintendent June Atkinson, a Democrat. 

The Division of Non-Public Instruction is primarily a record-keeping operation, ensuring that home-schools keep up with needed attendance and other record-keeping requirements. Typically, those records are gathered at third-party locations and at-home visits have not been a regular practice since the 1980s. According to home-school advocates, a recent letter from the division asked five of the more than 53,000 home schools in the state to spend 30 minutes with state officials. 

According to the division, there were 53,347 home schools during the 2012-13 school year that educated 87,978 children. A home-school is defined as an educational environment where the child primarily gets instruction from a parent or guardian. A pair of families can combine to form a single home-school. 

Asked what harm would be done if a parent consented to a site visit, Kami Mueller, a spokeswoman for Forest, said, "It's not a question of harm being done." Rather, she said, Forest was making sure people understood that they had the right to turn away searches by government officials who don't have a warrant.

24 Comments

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  • kdogwnc Oct 18, 7:16 a.m.

    glarg says: "We ought to be grateful, encouraging and supporting them, not harassing them."

    We ought to be enforcing the law regarding education of children. We ought to be making sure these children are receiving an education that will result in them being productive members of society, rather than a drain on the taxpayers.

    I work independently and mostly online, sometimes from a local coffee shop in our hometown that has reliable internet service. Several times there has been a "homeschool" class meeting in this coffee shop, with music going, customers coming in and out, lunch being served, etc. I'm not sure how seven or eight high schoolers meeting this way qualifies as a "home school." In listening to their teacher talk about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in what appeared to be a class on government, she had absolutely no clue as to the contentious relationship between them, and was way off base in their reconciliation during their retirement.

  • glarg Oct 17, 3:14 p.m.

    ""It has come to my attention that the effort to make a small sampling of homeschool visits is not well understood by homeschoolers."

    Oh I think they understood all right.

    A bunch of officious government grabinskis were going to descend on a homeschooler to see just why they were violating the government monopoly.

    53,347 students means the home schoolers are saving the taxpayer nearly $480 MILLION dollars every year. We ought to be grateful, encouraging and supporting them, not harassing them.

  • 42 Oct 17, 9:07 a.m.

    Are there any sane GOPer in NC? They have all drunk the tea and it was laced with stupidity.

  • snshine62d Oct 16, 12:42 p.m.

    I know a lady who is "home schooling" her children. The only problem is, she is not doing anything. I feel so bad for the kids.

  • deebastet Oct 16, 10:50 a.m.

    The craziness in NC continues to spread.

  • OleNCNative Oct 16, 10:08 a.m.

    Did a little research. Here's a WRAL news story from 2009 that said there was over 41,000 schools. The state inspects 5 (a whopping .012%) and this guy says ""This policy is intrusive, unnecessary, and has the potential to infringe on the constitutionally-protected privacy rights of tens of thousands of North Carolina home school families."

    See how irrational the right is?

    http://www.wral.com/news/local/noteworthy/story/5723806/

  • rushbot Oct 16, 8:37 a.m.

    wouldn't want those home schooler persons to actually obey the rules/law..we should just give them the voucher money and trust them..sort of like we are going to change our policy of trusting voters..and trusting welfare recipients..why would north carolina not trust voters...and not trust welfare recipients..but fling on out the voucher money without any verifications?!?!?

  • free2bme Oct 16, 7:54 a.m.

    Intrusive NC government is already in everything we do. Why not in this that involves education?

  • kdogwnc Oct 15, 10:20 p.m.

    So a constitutional officer of the state, bound by law to enforce state laws, is calling for parents to defy the law?

    Lt Dan would be taken more seriously if he lobbied the legislature to change the law.

  • jackflash123 Oct 15, 5:08 p.m.

    As a public school teacher who has home-schooled, I support the Lt Gov on this. I recognize the need for some oversight of schools, but what we have coming down from DC, and over from Raleigh is most definitely, definitely not it. It needs to be as localized as possible. The further removed the governing body, the more out of touch it is.

    Visiting your home to inspect your home-school? That's difficult for law enforcement to do w/o certain procedures; why should the State BOE have any jurisdiction?

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