bona fide

There was a spirited meeting at the Gooch County (VA) School Board last night as hundreds of people attended to show their concern about a district policy that homeschooled students (at age 14) must declare their religious affiliation.  From

There’s controversy in Goochland over homeschooling. It all stems from a new policy that some parents believe violates their rights. The policy being questioned affects families who homeschool for religious reasons.

In the past, parents had to reach out for permission to teach their children at home. But now, the district wants to ensure kids are on board with their parent’s plan. Something that’s not sitting well with The Pruiett’s, who homeschool all six of their children.

After ten years of homeschooling, approved by the Goochland County School District, the family was stunned to receive a letter telling them they needed to reapply for the religious exemption that enables them to teach at home.

“We had 30 days to comply or be forwarded for prosecution, ” says Doug Pruiett.

The school board chairperson tells 8News, the policy enforces a state statute that requires both parents and students request homeschooling based on religious beliefs. But the Pruiett’s insist the policy interferes with their rights to raise their children as they see fit.

Doug Pruiett maintains, “I don’t believe the school board has the authority nor should they to interfere with families schooling their children this way.”

Here is a report on the meeting last night from attendees.  From

I was at this board meeting last night – in the front row – spoke, as did about 40 others, all but perhaps one strongly stating the many reasons that the board’s decision was wrong.

The turnout by county residents was overwhelming, several hundred with standing room only. It turned out to be a 1776 event, and utterly awesome as one after another resident clearly provided reasoning as to why the board’s new policy was wrong. The crowd was almost 100% supporting the overturning of the board’s action in 2013 that resulted in the Pruitt family being threatened with legal action requiring their children to legally attest to their desire to be homeschooled.

About 5 attorneys spoke eloquently, being so respected by the board that the board begged for help in how they should address the issue. One homeschooling attorney mother, a tiny gal on fire, was awesome, as was the HDLA, and others from pro-homeschooling groups.

But the attorney’s weren’t the only one’s hitting home runs – so many of the other speakers did as well and if I tried to detail each one this would be a book.

Several board members were clearly getting the message, a couple publicly repenting of adopting their policy.

The final issue agreed to by all and presented by almost all the speakers was parental responsibility – and that up to 18, parents are totally responsible for their children under not only our religious exemption, but by a 2013 Virginia law, Virginia code 22.1-254(B)(1), that clearly states this. An astute homeshooling attorney father presented this point.

The over 4 hour meeting was truly freedom in action, and in the end, the board rescinded the policy that was threatening the Pruitt family, and almost universally supported the petitions of those who showed up to protest the destruction of their freedom in our county – a generally very conservative one.

I’m not doing justice to all that was said and done in this lengthy meeting – there was too much to post here – but it was an awesome experience – and freedom won.


Here is another response from the same blog explaining the ‘bona fide’ wording requiring a student to declare his/her religious belief:

This is way too complex to get into here.

VA has long allowed both homeschooling (where families have to tell the school board they are doing it, AND “Religious Exemption” from any schooling based on religious beliefs. The two are completely separate and different.

Homeschooling requires, among other things, notification, and providing the school board with your curricula, materals, synopsis, and regular testing.

Religious exemption requires none of those things at all, but is a declaration by the family they are not bound by the law that requires children to be in school by their religious convictions. This only requires notifying the board of your intention to be exempt and nothing else.

VA law is here:

And here is the critical section:

“B. A school board shall excuse from attendance at school:

1. Any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school. 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; and”

In 2013 the board decided, based on lawsuits in Fairfax and another VA county that the wording “Any PUPIL along with his parents…….”by reason of bona fide religious training or belief” meant that the board was required to determine if the BELIEF OF THE PUPIL WAS “BONA FIDE”.

Several board members were VERY uncomfortable with this, but 4 to 1 voted in Dec. to require the child to prove their “bona fide” belief to the school board under this section of VA Law. They developed a horrible, interrogative questionaire that was required of pupils claiming the religious exemption. This is where they went off.

A horrible questionaire was then required of those claiming “Religious exemption” which really doesn’t required the parents to educate their children at al!.

Wife and I are in the front row in this video…


What do you think is the original school board policy intent to mandate 14 year old homeschooled students declare their religious belief? Why should this have to be provided to any governmental agency?  Does the belief of a 14 year old trump parental authority?  What would happen if a 14 year old stated he/she was agnostic?  Would the State then presume it had the authority to take this child from a Christian household because the parents’ teachings violated the child’s rights/beliefs?




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