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Proposed policy angers Bethel Park home-schoolers

| Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008

Not all parents in the Bethel Park School District who educate their children at home are happy with a home-schooling policy proposed by the district's administration.

Sue Means has been teaching her children at home for 24 years and believes the district should take an "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" approach.

"Why have a policy that just reiterates the home-schooling law?" Means asked.

Bethel Park Assistant Superintendent Nancy Rose said the new policy will establish guidelines that ensure consistency. She said that creating such a policy is recommended by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Some parents complain the policy has no provision for part-time schooling in the district, which previously was allowed. It prevents home-schooled children in the district from getting a Bethel Park diploma.

Means said her five children were among those who previously took some part-time classes in the district. She said the Home School Legal Defense Association says that if the district does not include allowing part-time home-schooling in the policy, it can be denied.

Rose said that excluding part-time provisions from the policy is going to allow individual principals to determine if a class can be taken at home or at the school. She said some class decisions have to be made on an individual basis because of class size or prerequisites.

She said it is not an attempt to bar home-school students from the classroom. "We have always welcomed home-school students into our schools, " Rose said.

Means objects to a provision preventing district home-school students from receiving a diploma from Bethel Park.

To Rose, the reason is simple: "If they haven't met our curriculum, why would we let them have our diploma?" she asked.

Means said she and other home-school families felt left out while the policy was drafted. Many asked to be included in the process, and Rose asked for them to appoint representatives. However, she said she waited for contact from the parents regarding who would represent them, but never heard anything.

School board President Susan Gout said the board will delay approval of the policy until Rose can meet with some of the parents.

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