RALEIGH — The lieutenant governor of North Carolina is expressing opposition to proposed random homeschooling inspections as the state’s Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) is set to meet with five families to review their schooling records.
Dan Forest issued a news release to express disapproval after he learned of the matter, which also raised concerns among homeschoolers. The plan was limited to five randomly selected families, and Forest said that it was his understanding that the department was going to begin to reintroduce a policy from the 1980’s where site visits were conducted.
“This policy is intrusive, unnecessary, and has the potential to infringe on the constitutionally-protected privacy rights of tens of thousands of North Carolina homeschool families,” he stated.
Forest told reporters that he wanted to make homeschoolers aware that they are not required to open their doors to the government.
“Homeschool families should be aware that they have the right to refuse warrantless entry by government officials without probable cause into their homes under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 20 of the North Carolina Constitution,” Forest stated.
“Homeschool families should follow the law in regard to the keeping of records and their lawful inspection, but should not be compelled to let any government official into their house,” he added. “It’s not necessary and people should reject it.”
North Carolinians for Homeschool Education (NCHE), however, believed that the proposal was lawful. The organization notes on its website that President Kevin McClain spoke with David Mills of NCHE about plans to gain a better understanding of the matter.
“It is my view that DNPE is carrying out their duty to NC citizens in inspecting records. It is the law that NC homeschoolers keep certain records, and it is the duty of DNPE officials to testify to their veracity,” McClain stated. “This activity is characteristic of good governance. Moreover, it serves an important public function. It allows the state to mediate between me, a person who favors home education, and my neighbors, some of who find the practice questionable. By inspecting my records and verifying their existence, DNPE officials can confirm the lawfulness of my family’s educational activity.”
He did note, however, that parents have a right under the law to deny entry to inspectors if they wish, but disagreed with Forest’s depiction of the inspections.
“Characterization of the inspection as ‘searches’ and ‘warrantless entry by government officials’ of a residence is factually incorrect. The scheduling of a visit to a NC homeschool by a DNPE official is not a ‘search’ of a home,” McClain said. “Because of 4th Amendment rights, for those who are uncomfortable having a DNPE official in their home, the inspection could even be held at the front door. But to characterize the activity as ‘intrusive’ is false…”
Mills advised that the practice is “not anything new.”
“I visited homeschools by the thousands during my first five years in the office of Non Public Education, at their homeschool, which was most likely their residence,” he explained in a statement. “The [recent] desire in conducting a sampling of homeschool visits, at the principal office, was to cause less inconvenience and give greater credibility to North Carolina homeschoolers. This homeschool sampling effort, in my opinion, (I am not an attorney), was more in line with what the requirements of Article 39 set forth.”
But DNPE also says that it discussed matters with both Forest and NCHE and now asserts that it is not planning to visit any homes in order to conduct the inspections. It is unclear as to whether an understanding has been reached between the parties in regard to where the inspections will be conducted.
“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,” reads a statement issued by the department. “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,” it continued. “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.”
There are approximately 53,000 homeschooling families in the state.