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Legality of Homeschooling in Puerto Rico

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marco legalLegality of Homeschooling in Puerto Rico



Puerto Rico falls under the jurisdiction of the US and PR Constitutions. The right to homeschool is a constitutionally protected right under the 14th Amendment (Liberty Clause) (US) and Article 2, section 7 (PR). If you are homeschooling with a truly religious conviction, then you are also protected under the 1st Amendment (Free Exercise Clause) (US) and Article 2, Section 3 (PR).



There is an exemption from obligatory public school attendance for those who are receiving instruction in a school established under NON-GOVERNMENTAL auspices. (Article 2, Section 5 PR Constitution) While it is unlikely that the Constitutional Convention considered homeschooling in the creation of that exemption, it is logical to assume that homeschoolers would fall within that distinction.



Also within the PR Constitution, family life, and privacy is expressly protected. (Article II, Section 



Puerto Rico Laws Relevant to Homsechooling



Law 149 of July 15,1999, as amended, puts forth that all children between the ages of 5 to 21 must attend a school.



Law 177 addresses educational neglect. Because of the lack of an official statement concerning homeschooling as an educational alternative, along with ignorance about homeschooling, there is a higher probability that homeschoolers may fall under suspicion of educational neglect because their children are not going to what is typically considered to be "school." (Should this be the case with you, please see our guidelines in the section that follows.)



There is no specific legislation in Puerto Rico pertaining to homeschooling. Some homeschoolers in Puerto Rico understand that there is a need for official government recognition of homeschooling as a viable and acceptable education alternative, as well as for expressed exemption from provisions such as are found in Laws 149 and 177, laws which are unclear as pertains to homeschoolers. They feel that this can be accomplished with a respectable homeschooling law or official statement that does not impinge upon or regulate existing homeschooling liberties. Other homeschoolers in Puerto Rico understand that any legislation or official statement concerning homeschooling, no matter how lax or beneficial, would be an infringement on their homeschooling liberties. For discussion on this issue please visit T'CHERs Legal Message Forum: www.tchers.net/board.



If Contacted by a Government Official 



While homeschooling is legal, it is often misunderstood. If contacted by any government officials we suggest the following guidelines: 



* Remain courteous and ask for reason of call/visit. 

* Although you have nothing to hide, do NOT invite the official in. This is not rude, it is prudent. 

* Do NOT offer any information beyond the fact that yes, you are homeschoolng your children. 

* Ask for the official's name and phone number and advise that you or your lawyer/representative will contact.

him/her and will be happy to answer his/her questions at his/her office or at an agreed upon place, other than within the privacy of your home. 



An accusation solely of educational neglect does not constitute an emergency and you have the right to maintain the privacy of your home and may follow our guidelines above. However, if there is an investigation due to a child abuse emergency report, the public official responding to the report does have the obligation to investigate and you may want to call a legal representative. 



Notification and Transferring your Child Out of School 



If your child has not yet been enrolled in a school (public or private), you do not have to notify anyone that you will be homeschooling. 



The Department of Education still does not have a formal procedure in place for homeschoolers leaving school systems and so, there remains much confusion on the part of many directors on how to handle those transferring out of the school systems into homeschooling. This holds particularly true for those students receiving Special Education. However, the following has more or less been the accepted procedure thus far. 



If your child has been enrolled in a school (public or private), you should notify the director in writing that your child is transferring into a private educational system. (sample letter below) If the school has the transfer form available, you may fill it out with the name of your homeschool (simply name your homeschool whatever you want). 



You may also request a copy of your child's records. Depending on the school, you may be asked to cover the cost of copying said records. Your child's medical and vaccination certificates should also be returned to you.



The ignorance of the legality of homeschooling on the part of some school directors, district superintendents, and school social workers has caused problems for some families wanting to transfer their children to homeschooling. Should you confront problems, please feel free to contact us for help. A phone call or letter from our lawyer to the director has always cleared up any misunderstandings. 



Special Education 



The Department of Education still does not have a formal procedure in place for homeschoolers leaving school systems and so, there remains much confusion on the part of many directors on how to handle those transferring out of the school systems into homeschooling. This holds particularly true for those students receiving Special Education. However, the following has more or less been the accepted procedure thus far. 



If your child has been enrolled in a school (public or private), you should notify the director and the Special Education office of your district in writing that your child is transferring into a private educational system. (sample letter below) If the school has the transfer form available, you may fill it out with the name of your homeschool (simply name your homeschool whatever you want). 



You may also request a copy of your child's records. Depending on the school, you may be asked to cover the cost of copying said records. Your child's medical and vaccination certificates should also be returned to you.



The ignorance of the legality of homeschooling on the part of some school directors, district superintendents, and school social workers has caused problems for some families wanting to transfer their children to homeschooling. Should you confront problems, please feel free to contact us for help. A phone call or letter from our lawyer to the director has always cleared up any misunderstandings. 



A few things that parents with children in Special Education should bear in mind: 



-The transfer into homeschooling does not mean that your child will lose his/her right to receive related services (therapies). 

-Your child will continue to receive the related services (therapies) that he/she is already receiving when you start homeschooling. 

-The IEP (Individualized Educational Program) will be carried out by you and the therapist(s) once you start homeschooling. 

-If different related services (therapies) are applied for after the transfer into homeschooling, your child will be put on a waiting list for those related services (therapies), the same as any other private school student. 



Transferring your Child Into School 



If your child is entering into the public school system from homeschooling and if he homeschooled under an umbrella school (i.e. distance learning program) that included issuing grades as part of its service, a transcript from them should be presented with your enrollment. 



If your child did not homeschool under such circumstances, the procedure outlined in the Department of Education Circular Letter 02-2006-2007 is: 



-Visit your regional Dept. of Education Office of Equivalency in order to receive a provisional placement certificate.

-Present that certificate at the school your child will be entering. 

-The school will then include your child on the list of students needing to take the placement exam when it is offered. 



Please note that private schools have the right not to accept students coming from homeschooling, although most do accept homeschoolers. If you think you might want to put your child in a private school at some point after homeschooling, it is recommended that you first check if they accept homeschoolers before beginning to homeschool. 



Record Keeping 



While there is no law that requires record keeping, there are many important reasons to do so. Those records can be used if you are receiving government benefits and further evidence of schooling is asked for, or as evidence of work done, should it be asked for, to re-enter a traditional private school. Records are especially important for those going on to college or seeking employment as they will help you to create a portfolio, transcript, or résumé when needed.



Legal Information for Puerto Rico generously supplied by the T'CHERs community of Puerto Rico. Their website can be found at: T'CHER's / The Caribbean Center of Home Education Resources