Virginia

  • Homeschool statute: Parents must provide annual notice to the division superintendent, have a high school diploma or GED (or provide evidence of the parent’s ability to provide an adequate education), offer 180 days of instruction, maintain attendance records, and have their children assessed annually (by standardized test or portfolio review). While there are no subject requirements, assessments must be turned into the division superintendent who will begin a remediation process if a homeschooled student is not receiving an “adequate education.”
  • Religious exemption: Parents and children who have religious objections to school attendance may opt out of all education requirements by providing notice of their objections to the division superintendent. Various school districts enforce this provision differently.
  • Private tutor: Parents with teaching certificates may homeschool under the private tutor law. The parent must file a copy of the teaching certificate with the district superintendent, provide 180 days of instruction, and maintain immunization records. There are no subject or assessment requirements.

(1) Homeschool Statute

Virginia’s homeschool statute states that “instruction of children by their parents is an acceptable alternative form of education” and that parents “may elect to provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1.

Notification: Parents must provide annual notice to the division superintendent by August 15 of each year. This notice must include the intent to homeschool, a list of subjects to be studied during the coming year, and evidence that the parent has the necessary qualifications. Parents who move or begin homeschooling during the school year must provide notice “as soon as practicable.” Each division superintendent must notify the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the number of students in the division being homeschooled. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1(B).
Qualifications: A parent may provide home instruction in lieu of school attendance if he “(i) holds a high school diploma; or (ii) is a teacher of qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education; or (iii) provides a program of study or curriculum which may be delivered through a correspondence course or distance learning program or in any other manner; or (iv) provides evidence that he is able to provide an adequate education for the child.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1(A).
Days or hours: Home instruction must take place “during the period of each year the public schools are in session and for the same number of days and hours per day as the public schools.” This is generally 180 days or 990 hours. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254(A).
Subjects: None. However, students must achieve either the 23rd percentile on a nationally standardized achievement test or have an evaluation with a standardized teacher or other qualified individual showing “an adequate level of educational growth and progress.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1(C).
Bookkeeping: Parents must submit documentation of compliance with immunization requirements upon the request of the division superintendent. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-271.4.
Assessment: By August 1 following each school year, each homeschool parent must provide the division superintendent with either (1) evidence that the child has achieved at least the 23rd percentile (fourth stanine) on a nationally standardized achievement test; or (2) an evaluation that the division superintendent demonstrates that the child “is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress” including (a) an evaluation from a licensed teacher, or an individual with a master’s degree or higher, stating that they are familiar with the child and can attest to their progress; or (b) a report card or transcript from an institution of higher education or a correspondence school. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1(C).
Intervention: If the required evidence of progress is not submitted, the homeschool is placed on probation for one year. Parents must provide the division superintendent with “evidence of their ability to provide an adequate education for their child” and a remediation plan for the probationary year. “If the remediation plan and evidence are not accepted or the required evidence of progress is not provided by August 1 following the probationary year, home instruction shall cease.” “Any party aggrieved by a decision of the division superintendent may appeal his decision within 30 days to an independent hearing officer.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1(C). The district superintendent must compare lists of enrolled students with lists provided by the State Registrar of Vital Records and Health Statistics. The local attendance officer will investigate any cases of children not enrolled in school and not excused under the state’s homeschooling law. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-261. Failure to educate is not included under the state’s definition of neglect. Individuals suspecting a homeschool parent of educational neglect should report their concerns to the division superintendent rather than to Virginia’s Child Protective Services.
Other: Violation of the homeschool statute is a Class 3 misdemeanor. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-263. The statute explicitly states that it is not meant to interfere with a student and his parents obtaining religious exemptions from school attendance. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1(D). Parents must “comply with the immunization requirements provided in § 32.1-46 in the same manner and to the same extent as if the child has been enrolled in and is attending school.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-271.4.

(2) Religious Exemption

Virginia law exempts from compulsory school attendance “Any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school.” The statute further clarifies that “For purposes of this subdivision, ‘bona fide religious training or belief’ does not include essentially political, sociological or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254(B)(1) and § 22.1-254.1(D).

Notification: Parents must obtain a religious exemption from the division superintendent. This exemption must be based on a bona fide religious objection to school attendance by both parent and child.
Qualifications: None.
Days or hours: None.
Subjects: None.
Bookkeeping: Parents must submit documentation of compliance with immunization requirements upon the request of the division superintendent. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-271.4.
Assessment: None.
Intervention: None.
Other: Parents must “comply with the immunization requirements provided in § 32.1-46 in the same manner and to the same extent as if the child has been enrolled in and is attending school.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-271.4.

(3) Private Tutor

Virginia exempts from public school attendance any child who is taught by “a tutor or teacher of qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education and approved by the division superintendent.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254(A). Parents are allowed to serve as tutors for their own children.

Notification: Parents should provide the division superintendent with a one-time notice verifying that the parent is certified and stating that the parent will be tutoring his or her children.
Qualifications: The parent or other tutor must hold a state teaching certificate.
Days or hours: Tutoring must take place “during the period of each year the public schools are in session and for the same number of days and hours per day as the public schools.” This is generally 180 days or 990 hours. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254(A).
Subjects: None.
Bookkeeping: Parents must submit documentation of compliance with immunization requirements upon the request of the division superintendent. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-271.4.
Assessment: None.
Intervention: None.
Other: Parents must “comply with the immunization requirements provided in § 32.1-46 in the same manner and to the same extent as if the child has been enrolled in and is attending school.” See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-271.4.

Services Available to Homeschooled Students

Part-time enrollment: Yes, at the district’s discretion. Some districts allow part-time enrollment of homeschoolers in public school. Homeschoolers with a religious exemption and those using the tutoring option are not eligible.
Extracurriculars: Yes, at the district’s discretion. Many sports and extracurriculars in Virginia are governed by the Virginia High School League (VHSL), which requires participants to have passed five courses at the participating school during the previous semester and be enrolled in five courses during the current semester, making it impossible for homeschoolers to participate. However, some districts may allow homeschoolers to participate in other extracurriculars not controlled by the VHSL.
Special needs: No. While all public schools must offer special needs testing to any students within their districts, public schools in Virginia have no obligation to provide additional services to homeschooled students with special needs.
Other: n/a

Background:

Virginia created a religious exemption from compulsory attendance in 1976, coinciding with the beginning of the homeschooling movement. However, most families sought to homeschool by operating under the state’s private school laws. The legality of homeschooling under these laws was in question, and in 1982 the Virginia Supreme Court ruled a family doing so. Virginia passed its homeschool statute in 1984. Some parents have continued homeschooling under the religious exemption to the present day, and in January 2014 a proposal to study the application of this exemption was defeated.

For more, see A History of Homeschooling in Virginia.

Resources:

Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254

Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-254.1

Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-271.4

Compulsory Attendance and Home Instruction Related Statutes

Private Schools & Home Schooling, Virginia Department of Education

Home Instruction Handbook: Guidelines for Home Instruction in Virginia

Sample Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction

Statistics: Home Schooled Students & Religious Exemptions

Virginia, International Center for Home Education Research

This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice.

Last updated January 20th, 2014. 

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