In 1979, the General Assembly passed nonpublic schools legislation which radically deregulated the operation of nonpublic schools and removed any supervisory authority from the State Board of Education. As long as a school provided certain information to an authorized state representative in the governor's office, kept attendance records, complied with health and safety requirements, and administered periodic standardized tests, legislative requirements were satisfied.
As a result of the legislation, immediate attempts were begun to teach children at home. In August of 1979 the attorney general ruled that instruction of a child in his home by his parents or a tutor was not a "school" within the meaning of the Compulsory Attendance Law. The State Board of Education relied on this ruling for several years.
In 1982, a federal court ruled that North Carolina was prohibited by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution from enforcing the compulsory attendance law against the Duro family in Tyrrell County whose alleged religious beliefs required them to educate their children in their home. The Duro case was reversed on appeal and the appeals court concluded that the state's interest in compulsory education was of sufficient magnitude to override the parents' religious interest. Meanwhile in the North Carolina courts, a case involving home instruction by the Delconte family in Harnett Count ultimately was appealed to the State Supreme Court. That court ruled North Carolina statutes did not prohibit home instruction as an alternate means of complying with the compulsory attendance statute. The decision stated that North Carolina could prohibit home instruction altogether or could permit home instruction and regulate it to the degree it wished, but that existing statutes had done neither.
In 1988, the General Assembly enacted the current provisions that recognize home schooling as an alternative to public schools.
It should be noted that the wording of the Compulsory Attendance Act is at variance with --indeed, conflicts with -- the provisions of the nonpublic school statutes. Pertinent portions of the Compulsory Attendance Act have not been amended since 1969 and still mandate that nonpublic schools, at which attendance suffices to meet the requirements of the act, must be approved by the State Board of Education. The passage in 1979 of the nonpublic schools acts invalidated all provisions relating to State Board approval of nonpublic schools, although the language of the Compulsory Attendance Act remained unchanged.
Such an ambivalent approach makes meaningful enforcement of the compulsory attendance law very difficult.
Does a parent have to be certified as a teacher to conduct home instruction?
No. Formerly no qualifications for home school teachers existed, but the law provides that the home school instructor have as a minimum a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Must home schools follow a prescribed course of study for each grade level?
No. However, a required standard course of study is essential if the child is to reach his full educational potential. This in no way should be perceived as conflicting with the right of church affiliated or other nonpublic schools to include doctrinal teaching in their instructional programs, but such teaching should be in addition to and not as a substitute for academic requirements as spelled out in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.
Are there minimum scores for home school students taking the achievement tests? Are the testing sessions monitored?
No, to both questions. Although the law does require standardized testing on an annual basis, no minimum score is stipulated and no external monitoring is provided.
When a child transfers from a home school setting to the public school system, how is his placement in the public schools determined?
The principal places the child where the child can best be served. If the parent provides test scores form a nationally standardized test or equivalent measure that are adequate to determine proper grade placement, the principal cannot require further testing for placement purposes. This system works satisfactorily for elementary children, but poses very real problems at the secondary level where units of credit become the criteria for graduation.
If a home school fails to comply with nonpublic school laws regarding attendance, what action should be taken?
The school superintendent must consult with the Division of Non-Public Education to determine that the parents are not complying with the nonpublic school laws. When this is determined to be true, the superintendent or designee should notify the district attorney's office and initiate specific legal action against the parent.
If a child under the age of sixteen drops out or is dismissed from a nonpublic school (including home schools), who has the responsibility of enforcing the compulsory attendance law?
The local board of education has the primary responsibility in assigning a child to a school. If the child gives up his statutory right to attend a nonpublic school, the board's authority to assign the child to a school operated by the board is once more in effect.
Is there a requirement that a nonpublic school must notify appropriate public school officials when a student drops out or is dismissed from a nonpublic school?
No. Under the existing statute, the only method of dealing with students who drop out or are dismissed is continuous communication between the local school boards and nonpublic schools.