Parents in Virginia can prevent their children from getting any education at all if they want to, provided their reasons are religious. What a great arrangement.
Nearly 7,000 Virginia children whose families have opted to keep them out of public school for religious reasons are not required to get an education, the only children in the country who do not have to prove they are being home-schooled or otherwise educated, according to a study.
Virginia is the only state that allows families to avoid government intrusion once they are given permission to opt out of public school, according to a report from the University of Virginia’s School of Law. It’s a law that is defended for promoting religious freedom and criticized for leaving open the possibility that some children will not be educated.
The possibility? The near-certainty. The regulation of home schooling is appallingly lax in most states, and the result is children whose education consists of watching tv.
Home-school advocates say the law is essential to preserving the rights of families who believe that any state control of their children’s education would violate the tenets of their faith. It takes on particular importance in the state where Thomas Jefferson helped define religious freedom as a bedrock principle for the country.
“They feel that their deity has given them that responsibility,” said Amy Wilson of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. For such families, she said, to have to file paperwork and evidence of progress would put them in a crisis of conscience.
So they get to stunt their children’s lives. Fabulous.
Block became interested in the statute years ago, when a teenager asked for help because her parents had requested a religious exemption from compulsory attendance when she was a little girl, and she later wanted to go to school. It wasn’t until Block and a research assistant began looking into the 1976 law that he realized it was unique.
Once parents in Virginia are granted a religious exemption, they’re no longer legally obligated to educate their children.
The statute does not allow exemptions for political or philosophical beliefs “or a merely personal moral code,” but the beliefs do not have to be part of a mainstream religion.
“We were surprised at how regularly the exemption is granted,” Block said. “School systems almost never deny it.” And, according to a survey of superintendents in the commonwealth, school leaders rarely have further contact with the families after granting an exemption.
Sorry, kids. It’s the free exercise clause. Have a nice life; bye!