Ohio Home School Law: A One Parent Decision
Aside from her family life, the biggest impact upon a child is where she attends school and what type of school experience she encounters. The Ohio legislature has made the potential impact of the school experience upon a child even more significant: Ohio parents have the option to avoid traditional school altogether for a variety of reasons. Instead, they may “homeschool” their children, provided they comply with chapter 3301 of the Ohio Administrative Code.
Homeschooling in Ohio is education directed and provided by a parent. It is different from on-line programs that a child completes at home without attending school because the program, not the parent, directs and controls the material. For fathers, the definition of “parent” is critical. Pursuant to 3301(A)(1) of the OAC, “parent” means a parent, guardian or “other person having charge or care of a child” as defined by §3321.01 of the Revised Code. “A parent” means just what it sounds like: either mother or father.
Section 3321 of the ORC, however, limits the equality of mothers and fathers to those currently in legal marriages. For parents who are separated or divorced or whose marriage has been dissolved or annulled, parent means the person who is a “residential parent and legal custodian of the child.” For unmarried fathers, this automatically means the mother, unless he has obtained a court order of custody or shared parenting in which he is a residential parent. For fathers who are no longer married to the mother, this traditionally and most frequently has meant the mother. So, the decision to homeschool a child is usually exclusively within the mother’s power.
If mother and father are in agreement, homeschooling can be an avenue to educate their child without compromising their religious beliefs or subjecting the child to school related problems such as bullying. If the parents do not agree, the parent who has custody, as usual, has the veto. Courts will not make the decision about a child’s religion, what classes she takes, or whether she should be homeschooled. Such lifestyle decisions are within the purview of the custodial parent. Courts often of course decide which parent is the custodial parent. A parent, usually the father, who is not the custodial parent, would have to initiate a change of custody action or an action to terminate or modify a shared parenting plan, in order to have power to make the homeschool decision. This is a major undertaking and not easy to achieve because courts value finality to custody decisions and fathers have been historically slighted in American family courts.
The custodial parent has the prerogative to subject a minor child to medical treatment without asking or even notifying the other parent. The custodial may also decide to homeschool a child (or terminate home schooling) without asking or telling the other parent. The consent of both parents is required for a child to obtain a passport, reasoning that foreign travel has far-reaching risks consequences and irrevocable harm could result. Routine medical care is less life-altering.
It seems to me that the home school decision is more similar to a passport than to a child’s check-up with the doctor. Even if the parent provides a stellar home school education, home school students do not receive an Ohio high school diploma recognized by the State Board of Education. When pursuing employment or advanced education, home-schooled students may need to complete the GED to show equivalence to a state recognized high school diploma. This is a consequence with far reaching implications and irrevocable harm could result. Yet, the consent of both parents is not required.
Should parents discuss how to educate their children? Of course! This should ideally take place before the child is even born. In the real world, most parents naively assume that what’s good today will be good tomorrow. When it comes to homeschooling, one parent can be totally caught off-guard by the change caused by the other.
I have planned to write on additional homeschool topics, including its affects on parenting time orders, child support terminations, and the court’s treatment of home-schooling as a change of circumstance for modifications of custody orders. Contact me if there are other topics of interest to you.
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