Parents Oppose District’s Policy of ‘Interrogating’ Homeschoolers on Religious Beliefs

School busGOOCHLAND, Va. – Hundreds of concerned parents in Virginia recently voiced opposition to a controversial policy that allows school officials to grill homeschool parents and students on their religious beliefs.

In 2013, Goochland County Public Schools began requiring homeschool parents to reapply for a religious exemption to public education once their children turn 14 years old. The school district also requires homeschool families to write statements describing their religious beliefs.

“Before the School Board takes action on a request for a religious exemption, the parent must submit the application, a letter of statement explaining their bona fide religious beliefs and in the case of a student age 14 or older, a statement from the child stating his/her bona fide religious beliefs,” the school policy states.

The policy also gives the school board permission to schedule meetings with homeschool parents and students to question their religious beliefs.

“The purpose of the meeting is for the School Board to determine whether the request for exemption is based upon a conscientious opposition to attendance at a public school or at a private, denominational, or parochial school due to bona fide religious training or beliefs,” the policy says. “Such meeting will be conducted in a closed meeting of the School Board.”

Douglas Pruiett, a homeschool father in Goochland County, said three of his homeschooled children were affected by the school district’s policy. He likened the school’s procedures to interrogation.

“The policy provided the school board the right to call the child before them (and I call it interrogation) to defend those beliefs so they could determine whether indeed the child and the parents still held bona fide religious beliefs to qualify for the exemption,” Prueitt told Fox News.

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Prueitt believes the school district’s policy is illegal and alarming.

“I don’t believe the school board has the authority—nor should they—to interfere with families schooling their children this way,” he told reporters.

During the school board’s most recent meeting last week, hundreds of parents voiced opposition to the school district’s treatment of homeschoolers. The board promised to revise the policy, though the details will not be finalized until a later school board meeting, according to reports.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, told that school officials have no right to grill families on their religious convictions.

“Government has no business interrogating anyone, much less kids, on the sincerity of their religious beliefs,” she said. “We as a society should never want people to have to subject their faith to a government body.”

In a statement, Scott Woodruff with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) argued that the Goochland school district’s policy is “unacceptable” because it violates Virginia state law.

“The Virginia religious exemption statute gives families a right to an exemption from school attendance based on the religious training the parents are providing to the child—regardless of what the child believes,” Woodruff said. “The Goochland policy violates this right.”

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