BCPS Policy Proposal May Negatively Impact Homeschoolers

Baltimore County residents have until midnight on Aug. 9 to comment on 11 proposed policy changes.

A proposed change to a Baltimore County Public School policy may have an adverse effect on the manner in which families are required to teach homeschooled children.

The proposal is one of 11 policy changes being considered. Citizens have until midnight on Aug. 9 to comment on proposed changes.

Policy 6602, Alternative Education Programs, seemingly strengthens existing procedures for ensuring academic success for the county’s most vulnerable, at-risk students. New policy language requires Alternative Education Programs to follow the board’s attendance, curriculum, grading and graduation requirements.

The change may aid in the education of students who have been expelled and now attend special school programs, as well as at-risk students in school-to-work programs and home-hospital teaching students. However, the proposed change risks the rights of homeschoolers who fall under the umbrella of Alternative Education Programs.

Under current Maryland regulations, homeschool parents must provide “regular and thorough instruction” in all the usual classes that students take. Those same regulations guarantee a family's right to choose the specific class and curriculum they use with their children.

The proposed changes would require Baltimore County homeschoolers to follow board-approved policies on what is taught and when it’s taught.

“There are many families who homeschool because the schools do not meet the needs of their child, for various reasons,” said Sheila Ruth, a Baltimore County homeschooling mother for 10 years. “This policy would impose an undue burden on those families.”

The Baltimore County Board of Education periodically reviews its policy language to ensure its operations are up-to-date and in line with current practices and state regulations.


Other Proposed Policy Changes

Another proposed change creates an appeals process before a hearing examiner. Should the policy be approved, the board would have the option to refer certain matters to a hearing examiner, prior to rendering a final decision on an appeal. Examiners would be licensed attorneys appointed and paid by the board.

In a separate proposed policy change, appellants will have the right to appeal a Baltimore County School Board finding to the Maryland State Department of Education School Board.

Other proposed policy changes include strengthening BCPS’ ban on student tobacco usage, as well as employment termination. The Board also looks to change language relating to BCPS’ communication policy and encouraging teachers to participate in Parent-Teacher Association meetings.

The school board also proposes to eliminate policies relating to the employee suggestion program, instructors for Alternative Programs, salary negotiations for school nurses and tuition reimbursement programs.

The public comment period ends on Aug. 9. The Board of Education will review all submissions and vote on proposed policy changes at its next meeting on Sept. 6.

Alessa Giampaolo July 25, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Renee, I don't think BCPS is saying that homeschoolers are "most vulnerable". It just happens that the county-level homeschool office is under the umbrella of Alternative Education Programs. This division also includes home-hospital teaching, a program for kids too sick to attend school, but it's mostly made up of programs for at-risk students. It might feel like an awkward placement to many, but it really does make sense when you look at the overall structure of BCPS.
Kristin July 26, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Alessa, thank you forbraising awareness of this isdue! 2 questions for you: can you provide description of what homeschooling families could be required to do differently if the "Alternative Education Programs must follow the board's attendance, curriculum, grading & graduation requirements" passes? Can a policy change occur without a change in the COMAR law itself?
Alessa Giampaolo July 26, 2011 at 01:19 AM
Kristin, I can't answer your 1st question because I do not work for BCPS and have no idea how the homeschool liaison may choose to interpret this new policy - if it were to be implemented and applied to homeschoolers as it is currently written. Your 2nd question, however, is really the more important one. My understanding is that state regulations will always trump local policy, if and when there is a discrepancy. I think, more often than not, these kinds of discrepancies come up because someone just didn't remember to think of the outlying exception to the rule.
Melissa Carrier Hege July 27, 2011 at 12:40 AM
What about this part of Maryland law? Additional Requirements. A local school system may not impose additional requirements for home instruction programs other than those in these regulations. This should protect all homeschoolers.
Shannon July 28, 2011 at 02:11 PM
I emailed Donna Sochurek, (Specialist, Home Schooling, Office of Alternative Education) who had this to say about this amendment. "Thank you for getting in touch with me. Please be assured that Baltimore County Schools follows the Maryland regulations for home schooling so there will not be any changes. The policy is meant to address some of our Alternative Programs that address the needs of public school students (Evening High School, Saturday School, Home & Hospital). Home Schooling students are not enrolled in public school. Please tell concerned parents to call me and I will assure them there will not be any changes for home schoolers in Baltimore County."


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