A History of Homeschooling in Ohio

When the homeschool movement began, Ohio law contained a provision allowing superintendents to excuse a child from compulsory attendance if such a child was “being instructed at home by a person qualified to teach the branches in which instruction is required.” The requirements for obtaining such excuses varied from district to district; some superintendents required homeschool parents to have teacher certifications while others did not (some instead required that they have college degrees). District superintendents sometimes denied parents’ applications for such excuses, and many of these parents responded by appealing or seeking legal redress. Homeschool legal advocates argued that the law should be ruled void for vagueness while some homeschool parents argued that they should have a religious exemption from the compulsory attendance law.

While most homeschool parents sought these excusess, there were also other options available. The Department of Education initially allowed homeschools to be “approved” by local Christian or private schools with whom they maintained some form of connection, allowing Christian schools to serve as homeschool umbrella schools. This option existed until the 1985 to 1986 school year. Meanwhile, homeschool parents who met the requirements—which included sincerely held religious beliefs against government oversight and a bachelor’s degree—could homeschool under the law for non-chartered, non-tax supported schools (also called 08 schools). The 08 schools option was created in 1983 as a result of Whisner v. State (1976), an Ohio Supreme Court decision involving Christian schools.

In March 1988, the Ohio State Board of Education formed a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to Study Home Based Education. In April 1989, this committee, which had several homeschool members, managed to come to an agreement and proposed a draft called “Rules For Excuses From Compulsory Education for Home Education.” These proposed regulations included an approval process that functioned more like a notification process and served as a compromise between the various factions on the committee, keeping the authority to offer excuses from compulsory education in the hands of district superintendents but creating set requirements and thus eliminating the vagueness and variation. In July 1989, the State Board of Education adopted these regulations without amendment, and they became codified as OAC 3301-34. The rules state that they were enacted “to prescribe conditions governing the issuance of excuses from school attendance under section 3321.04” and “to provide for the assistant application thereof through the state by superintendents” and “to safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren).”

The Ohio State Board of Education reviews its rules for homeschooling every five years. However, the regulations adopted in 1989 have not been changed. The must recent rule review was in the summer of 2013. The trend in Ohio in recent years has been toward allowing greater homeschool involvement in public school activities.

For more state histories, see Histories of Homeschooling.

Click here for more on homeschooling in Ohio.

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