Local homeschool student denied access to Lake Forest program after participating for a year
When the school year beings in the Lake Forest School District on August 25, 10th grader Bryan Roscoe of Viola may not be there.
Roscoe, 15, attended the school part-time last year, played in the band and, in fact, won honors playing the trumpet. Now, Roscoe has been banned from participating in extracurricular activities at the school unless he enrolls full-time because Roscoe is homeschooled. As school districts around the region deal with how to handle homeschooled children who want to participate in extracurricular activities, the Lake Forest district put a policy in place last school year that left Roscoe unsure of what to do.
“Honestly I felt like it was a very bad situation,” Roscoe said. “I felt like I was being ridiculed, not because of funding, not because of something else, but because all other districts in Kent County, CR and Dover, have strict policies against part time students. May be [Lake Forest] felt pressed to put a policy into place.”
The new board policy states that homeschooled students may attend school on a part-time basis but must provide their own transportation, pay a fee for the classes they take and cannot participate in any extracurricular activity. Some area school districts have similar policies about homeschooled students on the books. Others defer to the state department of education’s policy.
Roscoe was the only homeschooled student that attended Lake Forest School district part-time last year. Having students come in part time is not a common occurrence, said John Filicicchia, Lake Forest High School Principal. In Delaware, about 3,145 students were enrolled in homeschooling last year. The number of students participating in public schools on a part time basis was not readily available.
The change in the Lake Forest policy means that Roscoe will have to decide whether or not he wants to give up his extracurricular activities or become a full-time student before school starts. Meanwhile, school officials said the policy is not about the cost of allowing homeschooled children in public school activities, but rather it’s about making sure full-time students get a fair chance for a spot on the team, band or other activity ahead of part-time homeschooled kids.
Roscoe has been homeschooled since kindergarten, but last fall he enrolled as a part time student at Lake Forest High School so that he could participate in the school’s concert and jazz bands.
At the time Lake Forest didn’t have a policy in place that barred home schooled or part time students from participating in extracurricular activities. So the trumpet player seized the opportunity to improve his skills in a band class at school. Previously, he participated in the band program at Greenwood Mennonite School, but the long drive and the limited nature of the program led him to seek other opportunities.
Roscoe performed with the jazz and concert band at Lake Forest and made it into Junior Delaware All-State Concert band and earned a spot in Kent County Honors Band.
Then in May Filicicchia pull Roscoe aside and told him that the school district had changed its policy. Roscoe would be allowed to finish out the school year, but would not be permitted to come back unless he enrolled as a full time student at the school.
“We did some digging and found the policy was put in place on Feb. 28, almost four months before they contacted me and told me the policy had changed,” Roscoe said. “We tried to appeal, but that was denied.”
The decision was made, in part, to ensure that students with in the Lake Forest School District have a fair shot, said Danny Aguilar, president of the Lake Forest school board.
“We never wanted to have a situation where a student not enrolled [full-time] in Lake Forest would take a spot and not provide a space for a current enrolled student,” he said.
The policy change also was prompted by requests coming in from other homeschool families to participate in activities such as Odyssey of the Mind, an acting and improvisation competition. The board decided to get out in front of the problem and ban those who are not full-time students from participating across the board, Aguilar said.
One of the concerns that Roscoe’s family has about the change in policy is the lack of communication the school district had with the family, said James Roscoe, Bryan’s father.
“I would have liked to have been kept in the loop from the beginning to plead my case in front of board,” he said. “As it was, I never sat in front of the board. I have not spoken to anyone on the board. Even when I put in an appeal it had to be done in a written form and mailed in for the board to consider. I wasn’t allowed to be there. It would have been nice to have been told, since Bryan was the first kid to do this kind of test program, to be kept in the loop.”
Despite the fact that the Roscoe family pays school taxes, which go toward funding programing and operational costs in the Lake Forest School District, they have no explicit rights to school services, according to Alison May, a spokesperson for the Delaware Department of Education.
“A lot of people pay school taxes and don’t have students enrolled in school,” May said. “So [the Roscoes’] have the right to enroll [ their son full-time] in Lake Forest if they choose to.”
May said according to state law, school districts are not required to provide homeschooled students with services, as homeschooling programs are considered to be private schools by the Department of Education.
Policies similar to the one adopted in Lake forest are in place in surrounding districts. Caesar Rodney School District’s policy states that home schooled students may not participate in extracurricular activities at district schools.
The Capital School District does not have a policy that explicitly states that home schooled children cannot participate in district activities, but rather states that the district refers all home schooling inquiries to the department of education and that state law is what regulates home schooling and not the district, said Sandy Spangler, assistant superintendent for the district.
However, state law gives individual school districts the ability to determine whether they want to allow homeschooled children to participate in extra-curricular activities or attend school part-time, according to Dee Black, a lawyer who represents Delaware for the Home School Legal Defense Association.
When it comes to public school sports, state law defers to the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, whose rules state that a student must be legally enrolled at the school that play for in order to participate in a practice, scrimmage, or contest. This rule was not put in place directly to cut out home schooled students, but rather to ensure fair play, said Kevin Charles, executive director of DIAA.
“What that regulation says is you can’t attend one school and play for a different school,” Charles said. “The effects are not directed at homeschool students. It’s intended to preserve activities at member schools for student of that member school … It minimizes the possibility of undue influence, a coach from one school going after kids from other schools. It ensures that everybody represents the team at their school.”
Despite the various regulations that limit homeschooled students’ participation in some activities, Delaware is fairly liberal when it comes to the policies about homeschool children, according to Black.
“[Delaware] is a pretty favorable state environment for home educators,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of legal problems in Delaware… The legal requirements are that homeschools are considered to be non-public schools in Delaware. They are required to file a couple reports with the Department of Education and so there is contact between the home school and the Department of Education, where in some states there is no requirement at all for any sort of notification or reporting of anything.”
Delaware is essentially a middle of the road state. Though, there are some states that have passed laws that allow homeschool students to have access to public school activities, Black said. Roscoe Bryan said he would like to see Delaware become one of those states.
“I would like for Delaware to consider writing an equal access law for all homeschoolers to benefit by having part-time access into public schools,” Bryan wrote in an e-mail to the Dover Post. “Right now 22 states have a law such as this. Why can’t Delaware be the 23rd? Not only would this strengthen extracurricular activities such as band, sports and Odyssey of the Mind, but this would also give equality for homeschoolers to educate how they want.”
The Lake Forest School District has made its final decision, but Bryan Roscoe still has a decision of his own to make, whether he will enroll in public school or remain home schooled and continue to take band at a small private school.
“lf I had to go full-time I don’t think I would feel comfortable being in public school and going to normal classes,” he said. “I have no idea what I’m going to do.”
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